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Gerald the Welshman Giraldus Cambrensis was 
born, probably in 1147, aT - Manorbier Castle in the 
county of Pembroke. His father was a Norman noble, 
William de Barri, who took his name from the little 
island of Barry off the coast of Glamorgan. His 
mother, Angharad, was the daughter of Gerald de 
Windsor x by his wife, the famous Princess Nesta, the 
" Helen of Wales," and the daughter of Rhys ap 
Tewdwr Mawr, the last independent Prince of South 

Gerald was therefore born to romance and adventure. 
He was reared in the traditions of the House of Dinevor. 
He heard the brilliant and pitiful stories of Rhys ap 
Tewdwr, who, after having lost and won South Wales, 
died on the stricken field fighting against the Normans, 
an old man of over fourscore years; and of his gallant 
son, Prince Rhys, who, after wrenching his patrimony 
from the invaders, died of a broken heart a few months 
after his wife, the Princess Gwenllian, had fallen in a 
skirmish at Kidwelly. No doubt he heard, though he 
makes but sparing allusion to them, of the loves and 
adventures of his grandmother, the Princess Nesta, the 
daughter and sister of a prince, the wife of an adven- 
turer, the concubine of a king, and the paramour of 
every daring lover a Welshwoman whose passions 
embroiled all Wales, and England too, in war, and the 
mother of heroes Fitz- Geralds, Fitz- Stephens, and 
Fitz - Henries, and others who, regardless of their 
mother's eccentricity in the choice of their fathers, 

1 It is a somewhat curious coincidence that the island of Barry 
is now owned by a descendant of Gerald de Windsor's elder 
brother the Earl of Plymouth. 


viii Introduction 

united like brothers in the most adventurous under- 
taking of that age, the Conquest of Ireland. 

Though his mother was half Saxon and his father 
probably fully Norman, Gerald, with a true instinct, 
described himself as a " Welshman." His frank vanity, 
so naive as to be void of offence, his easy accept- 
ance of everything which Providence had bestowed 
on him, his incorrigible belief that all the world took as 
much interest in himself and all that appealed to him 
as he did himself, the readiness with which he adapted 
himself to all sorts of men and of circumstances, his 
credulity in matters of faith and his shrewd common 
sense in things of the world, his wit and lively fancy, 
his eloquence of tongue and pen, his acute rather than 
accurate observation, his scholarship elegant rather 
than profound, are all characteristic of a certain lovable 
type of South Walian. He was not blind to the defects 
of his countrymen any more than to others of his con- 
temporaries, but the Welsh he chastised as one who 
loved them. His praise followed ever close upon the 
heels of his criticism. There was none of the rancour 
in his references to Wales which defaces his account 
of contemporary Ireland. He was acquainted with 
Welsh, though he does not seem to have preached it, 
and another archdeacon acted as the interpreter of 
Archbishop Baldwin's Crusade sermon in Anglesea. 
But he could appreciate the charm of the Cynghanedd, 
the alliterative assonance which is still the most dis- 
tinctive feature of Welsh poetry. He cannot conceal 
his sympathy with the imperishable determination of 
ids countrymen to keep alive the language which is 
their differentia among the nations of the world. It 
is manifest in the story which he relates at the end 
"of his " Description of Wales." Henry II. asked an 
old Welshman of Pencader in Carmarthenshire if the 
Welsh could resist his might. " This nation, O 
King," was the reply, " may often be weakened and in 
great part destroyed by the power of yourself and of 

Introduction ix 

others, but many a time, as it deserves, it will rise 
triumphant. But never will it be destroyed by the 
wrath of man, unless the wrath of God be added. Nor 
do I think that any other nation than this of Wales, or 
any other tongue, whatever may hereafter come to 
pass, shall on the day of the great reckoning before the 
Most High Judge, answer for this corner of the earth." 
Prone to discuss with his " Britannic frankness " the 
faults of his countrymen, he cannot bear that any one 
else should do so. In the " Description of Wales " he 
breaks off in the middle of a most unflattering passage 
concerning the character of the Welsh people to lecture 
Gildas for having abused his own countrymen. In 
the preface to his " Instruction of Princes," he makes 
a bitter reference to the prejudice of the English Court 
against everything Welsh " Can any good thing come 
from Wales?" His fierce Welshmanship is perhaps 
responsible for the unsympathetic treatment which he 
has usually received at the hands of English historians. 
Even to one of the writers of Dr. Traill's " Social Eng- 
land," Gerald was little more than " a strong and 
passionate Welshman." 

Sometimes it was his pleasure to pose as a citizen 
of the world. He loved Paris, the centre of learning, 
where he studied as a youth, and where he lectured in 
his early manhood. He paid four long visits to Rome. 
He was Court chaplain to Henry II. He accompanied 
the king on his expeditions to France, and Prince John 
to Ireland. He retired, when old age grew upon him, 
to the scholarly seclusion of Lincoln, far from his native 
land. He was the friend and companion of princes 
and kings, of scholars and prelates everywhere in Eng- 
land, in France, and in Italy. And yet there was no 
place in the world so dear to him as Manorbier. Who 
can read his vivid description of the old castle by the 
sea its ramparts blown upon by the winds that swept 
over the Irish Sea, its fishponds, its garden, and its 
lofty nut trees without feeling that here, after all, 

x Introduction 

was the home of Gerald de Barri ? "As Demetia," he 
said in his " Itinerary," " with its seven cantreds is the 
fairest of all the lands of Wales, as Pembroke is the 
fairest part of Demetia, and this spot the fairest of Pem- 
broke, it follows that Manorbier is the sweetest spot in 
Wales." He has left us a charming account of his boy- 
hood, playing with his brothers on the sands, they 
building castles and he cathedrals, he earning the title 
of " boy bishop " by preaching while they engaged in 
boyish sport. On his last recorded visit to Wales, a 
broken man, hunted like a criminal by the king, and 
deserted by the ingrate canons of St. David's, he retired 
for a brief respite from strife to the sweet peace of 
Manorbier. It is not known where he died, but it is 
permissible to hope that he breathed his last in the old 
home which he never forgot or ceased to love. 

He mentions that the Welsh loved high descent and 
carried their pedigree about with them. In this re- 
spect also Gerald was Welsh to the core. He is never 
more pleased than when he alludes to his relationship 
with the Princes of Wales, or the Geraldines, or Cad- 
wallon ap Madoc of Powis. He hints, not obscurely, 
that the real reason why he was passed over for the 
Bishopric of St. David's in 1186 was that Henry II. 
feared his natio et cognatio, his nation and his family. 
He becomes almost dithyrambic in extolling the deeds 
of his kinsmen in Ireland. " Who are they who 
penetrated into the fastnesses of the enemy ? The 
Geraldines. Who are they who hold the country in 
submission? The Geraldines. Who are they whom 
the foemen dread ? The Geraldines. Who are they 
whom envy would disparage ? The Geraldines. Yet 
fight on, my gallant kinsmen, 

" Felices facti si quid mea carmina possuit." 

Gerald was satisfied, not only with his birthplace and 
lineage, but with everything that was his. He makes 
complacent references to his good looks, which he had 

Introduction xi 

inherited from Princess Nesta. " Is it possible so fair 
a youth can die?" asked Bishop, afterwards Arch- 
bishop, Baldwin, when he saw him in his student days. 1 
Even in his letters to Pope Innocent he could not re- 
frain from repeating a compliment paid to him on his 
good looks by Matilda of St. Valery, the wife of his 
neighbour at Brecon, William de Braose. He praises 
his own unparalleled generosity in entertaining the 
poor, the doctors, and the townsfolk of Oxford to ban- 
quets on three successive days when he read his " Topo- 
graphy of Ireland " before that university. As for his 
learning he records that when his tutors at Paris wished 
to point out a model scholar they mentioned Giraldus 
Cambrensis. He is confident that though his works, 
being all written in Latin, have not attained any great 
contemporary popularity, they will make his name and 
fame secure for ever. The most precious gift he could 
give to Pope Innocent III., when he was anxious to win 
his favour, was six volumes of his own works; and 
when'good old Archbishop Baldwin came to preach the 
Crusade in Wales, Gerald could think of no better 
present to help beguile the tedium of the journey than 
his own " Topography of Ireland." He is equally 
pleased with his own eloquence. When the arch- 
bishop had preached, with no effect, for an hour, and 
exclaimed what a hard-hearted people it was, Gerald 
moved them almost instantly to tears. He records also 
that John Spang, the Lord Rhys's fool, said to his 
master at Cardigan, after Gerald had been preaching 
the Crusade, " You owe a great debt, O Rhys, to your 
kinsman, the archdeacon, who has taken a hundred or 
so of 'your men to serve the Lord; for if he had only 
spoken in Welsh, you would not have had a soul left." 
His works are full of appreciations of Gerald's reforming 
zeal, his administrative energy, his unostentatious and 
scholarly life. 

. Professor Freeman in his " Norman Conquest " de- 
1 " Mirror of the Church," ii. 33. 

xii Introduction 

scribed Gerald as " the father of comparative philo- 
logy," and in the preface to his edition of the last 
volume of Gerald's works in the Rolls Series, he calls 
him " one of the most learned men of a learned age," 
" the universal scholar." His range of subjects is 
indeed marvellous even for an age when to be a " uni- 
versal scholar " was not so hopeless of attainment as 
it has since become. Professor Brewer, his earliest 
editor in the Rolls Series, is struck by the same 
characteristic. " Geography, history, ethics, divinity, 
canon law, biography, natural history, epistolary cor- 
respondence, and poetry employed his pen by turns, 
and in all these departments of literature he has left 
memorials of his ability." Without being Ciceronian, 
his Latin was far better than that of his contem- 
poraries. He was steeped in the classics, and he had, 
as Professor Freeman remarks, " mastered more lan- 
guages than most men of his time, and had looked at 
them with an approach to a scientific view which still 
fewer men of his time shared with him." He quotes 
Welsh, English, Irish, French, German, Hebrew, Latin, 
and Greek, and with four or five of these languages at 
least he had an intimate, scholarly acquaintance. His 
judgment of men and things may not always have been 
sound, but he was a shrewd observer of contemporary 
events. " The cleverest critic of the life of his time " 
is the verdict of Mr. Reginald Poole. 1 He changed his 
opinions often: he was never ashamed of being incon- 
sistent. In early life he was, perhaps naturally, an 
admirer of the Angevin dynasty ; he lived to draw the 
most terrible picture extant of their lives and char- 
acters. During his lifetime he never ceased to inveigh 
against Archbishop Hubert Walter; after his death he 
repented and recanted. His invective was sometimes 
coarse, and his abuse was always virulent. He was 
not over-scrupulous in his methods of controversy; 
but no one can rise from a reading of his works without 
1 " Social England," vol. i. p. 342. 

Introduction xiii 

a^feeling of liking for the vivacious, cultured, impul- 
sive, humorous, irrepressible Welshman. Certainly no 
Welshman can regard the man who wrote so lovingly 
of his native land, and who championed her cause so 
valiantly, except with real gratitude and affection. 

But though it is as a writer of books that Gerald has 
become famous, he was a man of action, who would 
have left, had Fate been kinder, an enduring mark on 
the history of his own time, and would certainly have 
changed the whole current of Welsh religious life. As 
a descendant of the Welsh princes, he took himself 
seriously as a Welsh patriot. Destined almost from 
his cradle, both by the bent of his mind and the inclina- 
tion of his father, to don "the habit of religion," he 
could not join Prince Rhys or Prince Llewelyn in their 
struggle for the political independence of Wales. His 
ambition was to become Bishop of St. David's, and 
then to restore the Welsh Church to her old position of 
independence of the metropolitan authority of Canter- 
bury. He detested the practice of promoting Normans 
to Welsh sees, and of excluding Welshmen from high 
positions in their own country. " Because I am a 
Welshman, am I to be debarred from all preferment in 
Wales ? " he indignantly writes to the Pope. Circum- 
stances at first seemed to favour his ambition. His 
uncle, David Fitz-Gerald, sat in the seat of St. David's. 
When the young scholar returned from Paris in 1172, 
he found the path of promotion easy. After the manner 
of that age which Gerald lived to denounce he soon 
became a pluralist. He held the livings of Llanwnda, 
Tenby, and Angle, and afterwards the prebend of 
Mathry, in Pembrokeshire, and the living of Chesterton 
in Oxfordshire. He was also prebendary of Hereford, 
canon of St. David's, and in 1175, when only twenty- 
eight years of age, he became Archdeacon of Brecon. 
In the following year Bishop David died, and Gerald, 
together with the other archdeacons of the diocese, 
was nominated by the chapter for the king's choice. 

xiv Introduction 

But the chapter had been premature, urged, no doubt, 
by the impetuous young Archdeacon of Brecon. They 
had not waited for the king's consent to the nomina- 
tion. The king saw that his settled policy in Wales 
would be overturned if Gerald became Bishop of St. 
David's. Gerald's cousin, the Lord Rhys, had been 
appointed the king's justiciar in South Wales. The 
power of the Lord Marches was to be kept in check 
by a quasi-alliance between the Welsh prince and his 
over-lord. The election of Gerald to the greatest see 
in Wales would upset the balance of power. David 
Fitz-Gerald, good easy man (vir sua sorte contentus is 
Gerald's description of him), the king could tolerate, 
but he could not contemplate without uneasiness the 
combination of spiritual and political power in South j 
Wales in the hands of two able, ambitious, and ener- 
getic kinsmen, such as he knew Gerald and the Lord 
Rhys to be. Gerald had made no secret of his admiration 
for the martyred St. Thomas a Becket. He fashioned 
himself upon him as Becket did on Anselm. The part 
which Becket played in England he would like to play 
in Wales. But the sovereign who had destroyed 
Becket was not to be frightened by the canons of St. 
David's and the Archdeacon of Brecon. He sum- 
moned the chapter to Westminster, and compelled 
them in his presence to elect Peter de Leia, the Prior 
of Wenlock, who erected for himself an imperishable 
monument in the noble cathedral which looks as if it 
had sprung up from the rocks which guard the city of 
Dewi Sant from the inrush of the western sea. 
It is needless to recount the many activities in which 
Gerald engaged during the next twenty-two years. 
They have been recounted with humorous and affec- 
tionate appreciation by Dr. Henry Owen in his mono- 
graph on " Gerald the Welshman," a little masterpiece 
of biography which deserves to be better known. 1 In 

1 Published in the first instance in the "Transactions of the 
Cymmrodaian Society," and subsequently amplified and brought 
out in book form. 

Introduction xv 

1 1 83 Gerald was employed by the astute king to settle 
terms between him and the rebellious Lord Rhys. 
Nominally as a reward for his successful diplomacy, 
but probably in order to keep so dangerous a character 
away from the turbulent land of Wales, Gerald was in 
the following year made a Court chaplain. In 1 185 he 
was commissioned by the king to accompany Prince 
John, then a lad of eighteen, who had lately been 
created " Lord of Ireland," to the city of Dublin. 
There he abode for two years, collecting materials for his 
two first books, the " Topography " and the " Conquest 
of Ireland." In 1 188 he accompanied Archbishop Bald- 
win through Wales to preach the Third Crusade not 
the first or the last inconsistency of which the champion 
of the independence of the Welsh Church was guilty. 
His " Itinerary through Wales " is the record of the ex- 
pedition. King Richard offered him the Bishopric of 
Bangor, and John, in his brother's absence, offered him 
that of Llandaff . But his heart was set on St. David's. 
In 1 198 his great chance came to him. At last, after 
twenty-two years of misrule, Peter de Leia was dead, 
and Gerald seemed certain of attaining his heart's 
desire. Once again the chapter nominated Gerald; 
once more the royal authority was exerted, this time 
by Archbishop Hubert, the justiciar in the king's 
absence, to defeat the ambitious Welshman. The 
chapter decided to send a deputation to King Richard 
in Normandy. The deputation arrived at Chinon to 
find Coeur-de-Lion dead ; but John was anxious to make 
friends everywhere, in order to secure himself on his un- 
certain throne. He received the deputation graciously, 
he spoke in praise of Gerald, and he agreed to accept 
the nomination. But after his return to England 
John changed his mind. He found that no danger 
threatened him in his island kingdom, and he saw the 
wisdom of the justiciar's policy. Gerald hurried to see 
him, but John point blank refused publicly to ratify his 
consent to the nomination which he had already given 

xvi Introduction 

in private. Then commenced the historic fight for 
St. David's which, in view of the still active " Church 
question " in Wales, is even now invested with a living 
interest and significance. Gerald contended that the 
Welsh Church was independent of Canterbury, and 
that it was only recently, since the Norman Conquest, 
that she had been deprived of her freedom. His oppo- 
nents relied on political, rather than historical, consi- 
derations to defeat this bold claim. King Henry, when 
a deputation from the chapter in 1 1 75 appeared before 
the great council in London and had urged the metro- 
politan claims of St. David's upon the Cardinal Legate, 
exclaimed that he had no intention of giving this head 
to rebellion in Wales. Archbishop Hubert, more of a 
statesman than an ecclesiastic, based his opposition on 
similar grounds. He explained his reasons bluntly to 
the Pope. " Unless the barbarity of this fierce and 
lawless people can be restrained by ecclesiastical cen- 
sures through the see of Canterbury, to which province 
they are subject by law, they will be for ever rising in 
arms against the king, to the disquiet of the whole 
realm of England." Gerald's answer to this was com- 
plete, except from the point of view of political expedi- 
ency. " What can be more unjust than that this 
people of ancient faith, because they answer force by 
force in defence of their lives, their lands, and their 
liberties, should be forthwith separated from the body 
corporate of Christendom, and delivered over to 
Satan? " 

The story of the long fight between Gerald on the one 
hand and the whole forces of secular and ecclesiastical 
authority on the other cannot be told here. Three 
times did he visit Rome to prosecute his appeal alone 
against the world. He had to journey through dis- 
tricts disturbed by wars, infested with the king's men 
or the king's enemies, all of whom regarded Gerald 
with hostility. He was taken and thrown into prison 
as King John's subject in one town, he was detained by 

Introduction xvii 

importunate creditors in another, and at Rome he was 
betrayed by a countryman whom he had befriended. 
He himself has told us 

Of the most disastrous chances 
Of moving accidents by flood and field, 

which made a journey from St. David's to Rome a more 
perilous adventure in those unquiet days than an ex- 
pedition " through darkest Africa " is in ours. At last 
the very Chapter of St. David's, for whose ancient 
rights he was contending, basely deserted him. " The 
laity of Wales stood by me," so he wrote in later days, 
" but of the clergy whose battle I was fighting scarce 
one." Pope Innocent III. was far too wary a politician 
to favour the claims of a small and distracted nation, 
already half-subjugated, against the king of a rich and 
powerful country. He flattered our poor Gerald, he 
delighted in his company, he accepted, and perhaps 
even read, his books. But in the end, after five years' 
incessant fighting, the decision went against him, and 
the English king's nominee has ever since sat on the 
throne of St. David's. " Many and great wars," said 
Gwenwynwyn, the Prince of Powis, " have we Welsh- 
men waged with England, but none so great and fierce 
as his who fought the king and the archbishop, and 
withstood the might of the whole clergy and people of 
England, for the honour of Wales." 

Short was the memory and scant the gratitude of his 
countrymen. When in 12 14 another vacancy occurred 
at a time when King John was at variance with his 
barons and his prelates, the Chapter of St. David's 
nominated, not Gerald, their old champion, but Ior- 
werth, the Abbot of Talley, from whose reforming zeal 
they had nothing to fear. This last prick of Fortune's 
sword pierced Gerald to the quick. He had for years 
been gradually withdrawing from an active life. He 
had resigned his archdeaconry and his prebend stall, he 
had made a fourth pilgrimage, this time for his soul's 

xviii Introduction 

sake, to Rome,' he had retired to a quiet pursuit of 
letters probably at Lincoln, and henceforward, till his 
death about the year 1223, he devoted himself to re- 
vising and embellishing his old works, and completing 
his literary labours. By his fight for St. David's he had 
endeared himself to the laity of his country for all time. 
The saying of Llewelyn the Great was prophetic. " So 
long as Wales shall stand by the writings of the chroni- 
clers and by the songs of the bards shall his noble deed 
be praised throughout all time." The prophecy has 
not yet been verified. Welsh chroniclers have made 
but scanty references to Gerald ; no bard has ever yet 
sung an A wdl or a Pryddest in honour of him who fought 
for the " honour of Wales." His countrymen have for- 
gotten Gerald the Welshman. It has been left to Sir 
Richard Colt Hoare, Foster, Professor Brewer, Dim- 
mock, and Professor Freeman to edit his works. Only 
two of his countrymen have attempted to rescue one of 
the greatest of Welshmen from an undeserved oblivion. 
In 1585, when the Renaissance of Letters had begun to 
rouse the dormant powers of the Cymry, Dr. David 
Powel edited in Latin a garbled version of the "Itinerary" 
and "Description of Wales, "and gave a short and inaccu- 
rate account of Gerald's life. In 1889 Dr. Henry Owen 
published, " at his own proper charges," the first ade- 
quate account by a Welshman of the life and labours 
of Giraldus Cambrensis. When his monument is 
erected in the cathedral which was built by his hated 
rival, the epitaph which he composed for himself may 
well be inscribed upon it 

Cambria Giraldus genuit, sic Cambria mentem 
Erudiit, cineres cui lapis iste tegit. 

And by that time perhaps some competent scholar will 
have translated some at least of Gerald's works into 
the language best understood by the people of Wales. 
It would be impossible to exaggerate the enormous 
services which three great Welshmen of the twelfth 

Introduction xix 

century rendered to England and to the world such 
services as we may securely hope will be emulated by 
Welshmen of the next generation, now that we have 
lived to witness what Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton has 
called " the great recrudescence of Cymric energy. 1 " 
The romantic literature of England owes its origin to 
Geoffrey of Monmouth; 2 Sir Galahad, the stainless 
knight, the mirror of Christian chivalry, as well as the 
nobler portions of the Arthurian romance, were the 
creation of Walter Map, the friend and " gossip " of 
Gerald ; 3 and John Richard Green has truly called 
Gerald himself " the father of popular literature." 4 
He began to write when he was only twenty; he con- 
tinued to write till he was past the allotted span of life. 
He is the most " modern " as well as the most volu- 
minous of all the mediaeval writers. Of all English 
writers, Miss Kate Norgate 5 has perhaps most justly 
estimated the real place of Gerald in English letters. 
" Gerald's wide range of subjects," she says, " is only 
less remarkable than the ease and freedom with which 
he treats them. Whatever he touches history, 
archaeology, geography, natural science, politics, the 
social life and thought of the day, the physical pecu- 
liarities of Ireland and the manners and customs of its 
people, the picturesque scenery and traditions of his 
own native land, the scandals of the court and the 
cloister, the petty struggle for the primacy of Wales, 
and the great tragedy of the fall of the Angevin Empire 
is all alike dealt with in the bold, dashing, offhand 

1 Introduction to Borrow's " Wild Wales " in the Everyman 

2 Geoffrey, who ended his life as Bishop of St. Asaph, was sup- 
posed to have found the material for his " History of the British 
Kings " in a Welsh book, containing a history of the Britons, 
which Walter Colenius, Archdeacon of Oxford, picked up during 
a journey in Brittany. 

i* Walter Map, another Archdeacon of Oxford, was born in 
Glamorganshire, the son of a Norman knight by a Welsh mother. 
Inter alia he was the author of a Welsh work on agriculture. 

* Green, " Hist. Eng. People," i. 172. 

5 " England under the Angevin Kings," vol. ii. 457. 

xx Introduction 

style of a modern newspaper or magazine article. His 
first important work, the 'Topography of Ireland,' is, 
with due allowance for the difference between the 
tastes of the twelfth century and those of the nine- 
teenth, just such a series of sketches as a special corre- 
spondent in our own day might send from some newly- 
colonised island in the Pacific to satisfy or whet the 
curiosity of his readers at home." The description 
aptly applies to all that Gerald wrote. If not a his- 
torian, he was at least a great journalist. His descrip- 
tions of Ireland have been subjected to much hostile 
criticism from the day they were written to our own 
times. They were assailed at the time, as Gerald him- 
self tells us, for their unconventionality, for their de- 
parture from established custom, for the freedom and 
colloquialism of their style, for the audacity of their 
stories, and for the writer's daring in venturing to 
treat the manners and customs of a barbarous country 
as worthy the attention of the learned and the labours 
of the historian. Irish scholars, from the days of Dr. 
John Lynch, who published his "Cambrensis E versus" 
in 1622, have unanimously denounced the work of the 
sensational journalist, born out of due time. His 
Irish books are confessedly partisan; the " Conquest of 
Ireland " was expressly designed as an eulogy of " the 
men of St. David's," the writer's own kinsmen. But in 
spite of partisanship and prejudice, they must be re- 
garded as a serious and valuable addition to our know- 
ledge of the state of Ireland at the latter end of the 
twelfth century. Indeed, Professor Brewer does not 
hesitate to say that " to his industry we are exclusively 
indebted for all that is known of the state of Ireland 
during the whole of the Middle Ages," and as to the 
"Topography," Gerald " must take rank with the first 
who descried the value and in some respects the limits 
of descriptive geography." 

When he came to deal with the affairs of state on a 
larger stage, his methods were still that of the modern 

Introduction xxi 

journalist. He was always an impressionist, a writer 
of personal sketches. His character sketches of the 
Plantagenet princes of King Henry with his large 
round head and fat round belly, his fierce eyes, his 
tigerish temper, his learning, his licentiousness, his 
duplicity, and of Eleanor of Aquitaine, his vixenish 
and revengeful wife, the murderess of " Fair Rosa- 
mond " (who must have been known to Gerald, being 
the daughter of Walter of Clifford-on-the-Wye), and of 
the fierce brood that they reared are of extraordinary 
interest. His impressions of the men and events of his 
time, his fund of anecdotes and bon mots, his references 
to trivial matters, which more dignified writers would 
never deign to mention, his sprightly and sometimes 
malicious gossip, invest his period with a reality which 
the greatest of fiction - writers has failed to rival. 
Gerald lived in the days of chivalry, days which have 
been crowned with a halo of deathless romance by the 
author of " Ivanhoe " and the " Talisman." He knew 
and was intimate with all the great actors of the time. 
He had lived in the Paris of St. Louis and Philip 
Augustus, and was never tired of exalting the House of 
Capet over the tyrannical and bloodthirsty House of 
Anjou. He had no love of England, for her Planta- 
genet kings or her Saxon serfs. During the French 
invasion in the time of King John his sympathies were 
openly with the Dauphin as against the " brood of 
vipers," who were equally alien to English soil. For 
the Saxon, indeed, he felt the twofold hatred of Welsh- 
man and Norman. One of his opponents is denounced 
to the Pope as an " untriwe Sax," and the Saxons are 
described as the slaves of the Normans, the mere 
hewers of wood and drawers of?water for their con- 
querors. He met Innocent III., the greatest of Popes, 
in familiar converse, he jested and gossiped with him 
in slippered ease, he made him laugh at his endless 
stories of the glory of Wales, the iniquities of the An- 
gevins, and the bad Latin of Archbishop Walter. He 

xxii Introduction 

knew Richard Cceur-de-Lion, the flower of chivalry, 
and saw him as he was and " not through a glass 
darkly." He knew John, the cleverest and basest of 
his house. He knew and loved Stephen Langton, the 
precursor of a long line of statesmen who have made 
English liberty broad based upon the people's will. 
He was a friend of St. Hugh of Lincoln, the sweet- 
est and purest spirit in the Anglican Church of the 
Middle Ages, the one man who could disarm the 
wrath of the fierce king with a smile ; and he was 
the friend and patron of Robert Grosstete, after- 
wards the great Bishop of Lincoln. He lived much 
in company with Ranulph de Glanville, the first Eng- 
lish jurist, and he has " Boswellised " some of his 
conversations with him. He was intimate with Arch- 
bishop Baldwin, the saintly prelate who laid down his 
life in the Third Crusade on the burning plains of 
Palestine, heart-broken at the unbridled wickedness 
of the soldiers of the Cross. He was the near kinsman 
and confidant of the Cambro-Normans, who, landing 
in Leinster in 1165, effected what may be described as 
the first conquest of Ireland. There was scarcely a 
man of note in his day whom he had not seen and con- 
versed with, or of whom he does not relate some piquant 
story. He had travelled much, and had observed 
closely. Probably the most valuable of all his works, 
from the strictly historical point of view, are the 
" Itinerary " and " Description of Wales," which are re- 
printed in the present volume. Here he is impartial in 
his evidence, and judicial in his decisions. If he errs at 
all, it is not through racial prejudice. " I am sprung," 
he once told the Pope in a letter, " from the princes of 
Wales and from the barons of the Marches, and when 
I see injustice in either race, I hate it." 

The text is that of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, who pub- 
lished an English translation, chiefly from the texts of 
Camden and Wharton, in 1 806. The valuable historical 
notes have been curtailed, as being too elaborate for 

Introduction xxiii 

such a volume as this, and a few notes have been added 
by the present editor. These will be found within 
brackets. Hoare's translation, and also translations 
(edited by Mr. Foster) of the Irish books have been 
published in Bohn's Antiquarian Library. 

The first of the seven volumes of the Latin text of 
Gerald, published in the Rolls Series, appeared in 1861. 
The first four volumes were edited by Professor Brewer; 
the next two by Mr. Dimmock; and the seventh by 
Professor Freeman. 


January 1908. 

The following is a list of the more important of the 
works of Gerald: 

Topographia Hibernica, Expugnatio Hibernica, Itinerarium 
Kambriae, Descriptio Kambriaj, Gemma Ecclesiastica, Libellus 
Invectionum, De Rebus a se Gestis, Dialogus de jure et statu 
Menevensis Ecclesias, De Instructione Principum, De Legendis 
Sanctorum, Svmbolum Electorum. 







As the times are affected by the changes ofrcircum- 
stances, so are the minds of men influenced by different 
manners and customs. The satirist [Persius] exclaims,. 

" Mille hominum species et mentis discolor usus; 
Velle suum cuique est, nee voto vivitur uno." 

" Nature is ever various in her name; 
Each has a different will, and few the same." 

The comic poet also says, " Quot capita tot sententice, suus- 
cuique mos est." " As many men, so many minds, each 
has his way." Young soldiers exult in war, and pleaders 
delight in the gown; others aspire after riches, and think 
them the supreme good. Some approve Galen, some 
Justinian. Those who are desirous of honours follow the 
court, and from their ambitious pursuits meet with more 
mortification than satisfaction. Some, indeed, but very 
few, take pleasure in the liberal arts, amongst whom we 
cannot but admire logicians, who, when they have made 
only a trifling progress, are as much enchanted with the 
images of Dialectics, as if they were listening to the songs 
of the Syrens. 

But among so many species of men, where are to be 
found divine poets? Where the noble assertors of 
morals ? Where the masters of the Latin tongue ? Who 
in the present times displays lettered eloquence, either 
in history or poetry? Who, I say, in our own age, 
either builds a system of ethics, or consigns illustrious 


4 Preface 

actions to immortality? Literary fame, which used to 
be placed in the highest rank, is now, because of the 
depravity of the times, tending to ruin and degraded to 
the lowest, so that persons attached to study are at 
present not only not imitated nor venerated, but even 
detested. " Happy indeed would be the arts," observes 
Fabius, " if artists alone judged of the arts; " but, as 
Sydonius says, " it is a fixed principle in the human mind, 
that they who are ignorant of the arts despise the artist." 
But to revert to our subject. Which, I ask, have ren- 
dered more service to the world, the arms of Marius or 
the verses of Virgil? The sword of Marius has rusted, 
while the fame of him who wrote the Mneid is immortal; 
and although in his time letters were honoured by 
lettered persons, yet from his own pen we find, 


Carmina nostra valent tela inter Martia, quantum 
Chaonias dicunt, aquila veniente, columbas." 

Who would hesitate in deciding which are more profit- 
able, the works of St. Jerom, or the riches of Crcesus? 
but where now shine the gold and silver of Crcesus? 
whilst the world is instructed by the example and en- 
lightened by the learning of the poor coenobite. Yet 
even he, through envy, suffered stripes and contumely 
at Rome, although his character was so illustrious ; and 
at length being driven beyond the seas, found a refuge 
for his studies in the solitude of Bethlehem. Thus it 
appears, that gold and arms may support us in this life, 
but avail nothing after death; and that letters through 
envy profit nothing in this world, but, like a testament, 
acquire an immortal value from the seal of death. 
According to the poet, 

Pascitur in vivis livor, post fata quiescit; 

Cum suus ex merito quemque tuetur honor." 

And also 

Denique si quis adhuc prsetendit nubila, livor 
Occidet, et meriti post me referentur honores." 

Preface 5 

Those who by artifice endeavour to acquire or preserve 
the reputation of abilities or ingenuity, while they 
abound in the words of others, have little cause to boast 
of their own inventions. For the composers of that 
polished language, in which such various cases as occur 
in the great body of law are treated with such an appro- 
priate elegance of style, must ever stand forward in the 
first ranks of praise. I should indeed have said, that 
the authors of refined language, not the hearers only, the 
inventors, not the reciters, are most worthy of com- 
mendation. You will find, however, that the practices 
of the court and of the schools are extremely similar; as 
well in the subtleties they employ to lead you forward, 
as in the steadiness with which they generally maintain 
their own positions. Yet it is certain that the knowledge 
of logic (the acumen, if I may so express it, of all other 
sciences as well as arts) is very useful, when restricted 
within proper bounds ; whilst the court (i.e. courtly lan- 
guage), excepting to sycophants or ambitious men, is by 
no means necessary. For if you are successful at court, 
ambition never wholly quits its hold till satiated, and 
allures and draws you still closer; but if your labour is 
thrown away, you still continue the pursuit, and, to- 
gether with your substance, lose your time, the greatest 
and most irretrievable of all losses. There is likewise 
some resemblance between the court and the game of 
dice, as the poet observes: 

" Sic ne perdiderit non cessat perdere lusor, 
Dum revocat cupidas alea blanda manus; " 

which, by substituting the word curia for alea, may be 
applied to the court. This further proof of their resem- 
blance may be added; that as the chances of the dice 
and court are not productive of any real delight, so they 
are equally distributed to the worthy and the unworthy. 
Since, therefore, among so many species of men, each 
follows his own inclination, and each is actuated by 
different desires, a regard for posterity has induced me 

6 Preface 

to choose the study of composition; and, as this life is 
temporary and mutable, it is grateful to live in the 
memory of future ages, and to be immortalized by fame ; 
for to toil after that which produces envy in life, but 
glory after death, is a sure indication of an elevated mind. 
Poets and authors indeed aspire after immortality, but 
do not reject any present advantages that may offer. 

I formerly completed with vain and fruitless labour the 
Topography of Ireland for king Henry the Second, and 
its companion, the Vaticinal History, for Richard of 
Poitou, his son, and, I wish I were not compelled to add, 
his successor in vice ; princes little skilled in letters, and 
much engaged in business. To you, illustrious Stephen, 
archbishop of Canterbury, equally commendable for your 
learning and religion, I now dedicate the account of our 
meritorious journey through the rugged provinces of 
Cambria, written in a scholastic style, and divided into 
two parts. For as virtue loves itself, and detests what 
is contrary to it, so I hope you will consider whatever I 
may have written in commendation of your late vener- 
able and eminent predecessor, with no less affection than 
if it related to yourself. To you also, when completed, 
I destine my treatise on the Instruction of a Prince, it, 
amidst your religious and worldly occupations, you can 
find leisure for the perusal of it. For I purpose to submit 
these and other fruits of my diligence to be tasted by you 
at your discretion, each in its proper order; hoping that, 
if my larger undertakings do not excite your interest, my 
smaller works may at least merit your approbation, con- 
ciliate your favour, and call forth my gratitude towards 
you; who, unmindful of worldly affections, do not 
partially distribute your bounties to your family and 
friends, but to letters and merit; you, who, in the midst 
of such great and unceasing contests between the crown 
and the priesthood, stand forth almost singly the firm 
and faithful friend of the British church; you, who, 
almost the only one duly elected, fulfil the scriptural de- 
signation of the episcopal character. It is not, however, 

Preface 7 

by bearing a cap, by placing a cushion, by shielding off 
the rain, or by wiping the dust, even if there should be 
none, in the midst of a herd of flatterers, that I attempt 
to conciliate your favour, but by my writings. To you, 
therefore, rare, noble, and illustrious man, on whom 
nature and art have showered down whatever becomes 
your supereminent situation, I dedicate my works; but 
if I fail in this mode of conciliating your favour, and if 
your prayers and avocations should not allow you suffi- 
cient time to read them, I shall consider the honour of 
letters as vanished, and in hope of its revival I shall in- 
scribe my writings to posterity. 



Since those things, which are known to have been done 
through a laudable devotion, are not unworthily ex- 
tolled with due praises; and since the mind, when re- 
laxed, loses its energy, and the torpor of sloth enervates 
the understanding, as iron acquires rust for want of use, 
and stagnant waters become foul; lest my pen should 
be injured by the rust of idleness, I have thought good 
to commit to writing the devout visitation which Bald- 
win, archbishop of Canterbury, made throughout Wales ; 
and to hand down, as it were in a mirror, through you, 
illustrious Stephen, to posterity, the difficult places 
through which we passed, the names of springs and tor- 
rents, the witty sayings, the toils and incidents of the 
journey, the memorable events of ancient and modern 
times, and the natural history and description of the 
country; lest my study should perish through idleness, 
or the praise of these things be lost by silence. 




I. Journey through Hereford and Radnor . . n 

II. Journey through Hay and Brecheinia . . 18 

III. Ewyas and Llanthoni ..... 34 

IV. The Journey by Coed Grono and Abergevenni . 44 
V. Of the Progress by the Castle of Usk and Caerleon 50 

VI. Newport and Caerdyf . . . . .56 

VII. The See of Landaf and Monastery of Margan, and 

the Remarkable Things in those Parts . 61 

VIII. Passage of the Rivers Avon and Neth and of 

Abertawe and Goer ..... 65 

IX. Passage over the Rivers Lochor and Wendraeth; 

and of Cydweli . . . . . .71 

X. TywyRiver Caermardyn Monastery of Albelande 73 
XI. Haverford and Ros ...... 76 

XII. Penbroch 82 

XIII. Of the Progress by Camros and Niwegal . . 91 


I. Of the Sec of St. David's .... 95 

II. Of the Journey by Cemmeis the Monastery of St. 

Dogmael ....... 102 

III. Of the River Teivi Cardigan Emelyn . .105 

IV. Of the Journey by Pont Stephen, the Abbey of 

Stratflur. Landewi Brevi, and Lhanpadarn 
Vawr ....... 109 





V. Of the River Devi, and the Land of the Sons of Conan 113 
VI. Passage of Traeth Mawr and Traeth Bachan, and 

of Nevyn, Carnarvon, and Bangor . . 115 

VII. The Island of Mona 118 

VIII. Passage of the River Conwy in a Boat, and of Dinas 

Emrys . . . . . . .125 

IX. Of the Mountains of Eryri . . . .127 

X. Of the Passage by Deganwy and Ruthlan, and the 

See of Lanelwy, and of Coleshulle . .128 

XI. Of the Passage of the River Dee, and of Chester 131 
XII. Of the Journey by the White Monastery, Oswaldes- 

tree, Powys, and Shrewsbury . . 133 

XIII. Of the J ourney by Wenloch, Brumfeld, the Castle of 

Ludlow, and Leominster, to Hereford . 137 

XIV. A Description of Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury 139 

Index .......... 207 






In the year 1188 from the incarnation of our Lord, 
Urban the Third 1 being the head of the apostolic see; 
Frederick, emperor of Germany and king of the Romans ; 
Isaac, emperor of Constantinople; Philip, the son of 
Louis, reigning in France; Henry the Second in Eng- 
land; William in Sicily; Bela in Hungary; and Guy in 
Palestine : in that very year, when Saladin, prince of the 
Egyptians and Damascenes, by a signal victory gained 
possession of the kingdom of Jerusalem ; Baldwin, arch- 

1 Giraldus has committed an error in placing Urban III. at the 
head of the apostolic see; for he died at Ferrara in the month of 
October, a.d. 1187, and was succeeded by Gregory VIII., whose 
short reign expired in the month of December following. Clement 
III. was elected pontiff in the year 1188. Frederick I., surnamed 
Barbarossa, succeeded Conrad III. in the empire of Germany, in 
March, 1152, and was drowned in a river of Cilicia whilst bathing, 
in 1 190. Isaac Angelus succeeded Andronicus I. as emperor of 
Constantinople, in 1185, and was dethroned in 1195. Philip II., 
surnamed Augustus, from his having been born in the month of 
August, was crowned at Rheims, in 1179, and died at Mantes, in 
1223. William II., king of Sicily, surnamed the Good, succeeded 
in 1166 to his father, William the Bad, and died in 1189. Bela 
III., king of Hungary, succeeded to the throne in 1174, and died 
in 1196. Guy de Lusignan was crowned king of Jerusalem in 
1 186, and in the following year his city was taken by the victorious 


i 2 Giraldus Cambrensis 

bishop of Canterbury, a venerable man, distinguished 
for his learning and sanctity, journeying from England 
for the service of the holy cross, entered Wales near the 
borders of Herefordshire. 

The archbishop proceeded to Radnor, 1 on Ash Wednes- 
day {Caput Jejunii), accompanied by Ranulph de Glan- 
ville, privy counsellor and justiciary of the whole 
kingdom, and there met Rhys, 2 son of Gruffydd, prince 
of South Wales, and many other noble personages of 
those parts; where a sermon being preached by the 
archbishop, upon the subject of the Crusades, and ex- 
plained to the Welsh by an interpreter, the author of 
this Itinerary, impelled by the urgent importunity and 
promises of the king, and the persuasions of the arch- 
bishop and the justiciary, arose the first, and falling 
down at the feet of the holy man, devoutly took the sign 
of the cross. His example was instantly followed by 
Peter, bishop of St. David's, 3 a monk of the abbey of 
Cluny, and then by Eineon, son of Eineon Clyd, 4 prince 
of Elvenia, and many other persons. Eineon rising up, 
said to Rhys, whose daughter he had married, " My 
father and lord! with your permission I hasten to re- 
venge the injury offered to the great father of all." 
Rhys himself was so fully determined upon the holy 

1 New Radnor. 

2 Rhys ap Gruffydd was grandson to Rhys ap Tewdwr, prince 
of South Wales, who, in 1090, was slain in an engagement with the 
Normans. He was a prince of great talent, but great versatility 
of character, and made a conspicuous figure in Welsh history. He 
died in 1196, and was buried in the cathedral of St. David's; 
where his effigy, as well as that of his son Rhys Gryg, still remain 
in a good state of preservation. 

3 Peter de Leia, prior of the Benedictine monastery of Wenlock, 
in Shropshire, was the successful rival of Giraldus for the bishopric 
of Saint David's, vacant by the death of David Fitzgerald, the 
uncle of our author; but he did not obtain his promotion without 
considerable opposition from the canons, who submitted to the 
absolute sequestration of their property before they consented 
to his election, being desirous that the nephew should have suc- 
ceeded his uncle. He was consecrated in n 76, and died in 1199. 

4 In the Latin of Giraldus, the name of Eineon is represented by 
^Eneas, and Eineon Clyd by ^Eneas Claudius. 

Itinerary Through Wales I 3 

peregrination, as soon as the archbishop should enter 
his territories on his return, that for nearly fifteen days 
he was employed with great solicitude in making the 
necessary preparations for so distant a journey; till his 
wife, and, according to the common vicious licence of 
the country, his relation in the fourth degree, Guen- 
dolena, (Gwenllian), daughter of Madoc, prince of Powys, 
by female artifices diverted him wholly from his noble 
purpose; since, as Solomon says, "A man's heart de- 
viseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps. " As 
Rhys before his departure was conversing with his friends 
concerning the things he had heard, a distinguished 
young man of his family, by name Gruffydd, and who 
afterwards took the cross, is said thus to have answered : 
" What man of spirit can refuse to undertake this journey, 
since, amongst all imaginable inconveniences, nothing 
worse can happen to any one than to return." 

On the arrival of Rhys in his own territory, certain 
canons of Saint David's, through a zeal for their church, 
having previously secured the interest of some of the 
prince's courtiers, waited on Rhys, and endeavoured by 
every possible suggestion to induce him not to permit 
the archbishop to proceed into the interior parts of Wales, 
and particularly to the metropolitan see of Saint David's 
(a thing hitherto unheard of), at the same time asserting 
that if he should continue his intended journey, the 
church would in future experience great prejudice, and 
with difficulty would recover its ancient dignity and 
honour. Although these pleas were most strenuously 
urged, the natural kindness and civility of the prince 
would not suffer them to prevail, lest by prohibiting the 
archbishop's progress, he might appear to wound his 

Early on the following morning, after the celebration 
of mass, and the return of Ranulph de Glanville to Eng- 
land, we came to Cruker Castle, 1 two miles distant from 

1 Cruker Castle. The corresponding distance between Old and 
New Radnor evidently places this castle at Old Radnor, which 

14 Giraldus Cambrensis 

Radnor, where a strong and valiant youth named 
Hector, conversing with the archbishop about taking 
the cross, said, " If I had the means of getting provisions 
for one day, and of keeping fast on the next, I would 
comply with your advice; " on the following day, how- 
ever, he took the cross. The same evening, Malgo, son 
of Cadwallon, prince of Melenia, after a short but effica- 
cious exhortation from the archbishop, and not without 
the tears and lamentations of his friends, was marked 
with the sign of the cross. 

But here it is proper to mention what happened during 
the reign of king Henry the First to the lord of the castle 
of Radnor, in the adjoining territory of Builth, 1 who had 
entered the church of Saint Avan (which is called in the 
British language Llan Avan), 2 and, without sufficient 
caution or reverence, had passed the night there with his 
hounds. Arising early in the morning, according to the 
custom of hunters, he found his hounds mad, and him- 
self struck blind. After a long, dark, and tedious exist- 
ence, he was conveyed to Jerusalem, happily taking care 
that his inward sight should not in a similar manner be 
extinguished; and there being accoutred, and led to the 
field of battle on horseback, he made a spirited attack 
upon the enemies of the faith, and, being mortally 
wounded, closed his life with honour. 

Another circumstance which happened in these our 
days, in the province of Warthrenion, 3 distant from 

was anciently called Pen-y-craig, Pencraig, or Pen-crug, from its 
situation on a rocky eminence. Cruker is a corruption, probably, 
from Crug-caerau, the mount, or height, of the fortifications. 

1 Buelth or Builth, a large market town on the north-west edge 
of the county of Brecon, on the southern banks of the Wye, over 
which there is a long and handsome bridge of stone. It had 
formerly a strong castle, the site and earthworks of which still 
remain, but the building is destroyed. 

2 Llan- Avan, a small church at the foot of barren mountains 
about five or six miles north-west of Buelth. The saint from 
whom it takes its name, was one of the sons of Cedig ab Cunedda; 
whose ancestor, Cunedda, king of the Britons, was the head of one 
of the three holy families of Britain. He is said to have lived in 
the beginning of the sixth century. 

3 Melenia, Warthrenion, Elevein, Elvenia, Melenyth, and 

Itinerary Through Wales i 5 

hence only a few furlongs, is not unworthy of notice. 
Eineon, lord of that district, and son-in-law to prince 
Rhys, who was much addicted to the chase, having on a 
certain day forced the wild beasts from their coverts, one 
of his attendants killed a hind with an arrow, as she was 
springing forth from the wood, which, contrary to the 
nature of her sex, was found to bear horns of twelve 
years' growth, and was much fatter than a stag, in the 
haunches as well as in every other part. On account of 
the singularity of this circumstance, the head and horns 
of this strange animal were destined as a present to king 
Henry the Second. This event is the more remarkable, 
as the man who shot the hind suddenly lost the use of 
his right eye, and being at the same time seized with a 
paralytic complaint, remained in a weak and impotent 
state until the time of his death. 

In this same province of Warthrenion, and in the 
church of Saint Germanus, 1 there is a staff of Saint Cyric, 2 
covered on all sides with gold and silver, and resembling 
in its upper part the form of a cross ; its efficacy has been 
proved in many cases, but particularly in the removal of 
glandular and strumous swellings; insomuch that all per- 

Elvein, places mentioned in this first chapter, and varying in 
their orthography, were three different districts in Radnorshire: 
Melenyth is a hundred in the northern part of the county, extend- 
ing into Montgomeryshire, in which is the church of Keri: Elvein 
retains in modern days the name of Elvel, and is a hundred in the 
southern part of the county, separated from Brecknockshire by 
the Wye ; and Warthrenion, in which was the castle built by 
prince Rhys at Rhaiadyr-gwy, seems to have been situated be~- 
tween the other two. Warthrenion may more properly be called 
Gwyrthrynion, it was anciently one of the three comots of Arwystli. 
a cantref of Merioneth. In the year 1174, Melyenith was in the 
possession of Cadwallon ap Madawc, cousin german to prince 
Rhys; Elvel was held by Eineon Clyd, and Gwyrthrynion by 
Eineon ap Rhys, both sons-in-law to that illustrious prince. 

1 The church of Saint Germanus is now known by the name of 
Saint Harmans, and is situated three or four miles from Rhaiadyr, 
in Radnorshire, on the right-hand of the road from thence to 
Llanidloes; it is a small and simple structure, placed on a little 
eminence, in a dreary plain surrounded by mountains. 

2 Several churches in Wales have been dedicated to Saint Curig, 
who came into Wales in the seventh century. 

i 6 Giraldus Cambrensis 

sons afflicted with these complaints, on a devout applica- 
tion to the staff, with the oblation of one penny, are 
restored to health. But it happened in these our days, 
that a strumous patient on presenting one halfpenny to 
the staff, the humour subsided only in the middle; but 
when the oblation was completed by the other halfpenny, 
an entire cure was accomplished. Another person also 
coming to the staff with the promise of a penny, was 
cured; but not fulfilling his engagement on the day ap- 
pointed, he relapsed into his former disorder; in order, 
however, to obtain pardon for his offence, he tripled the 
offering by presenting three-pence, and thus obtained a 
complete cure. 

At Elevein, in the church of Glascum, 1 is a portable 
bell, endowed with great virtues, called Bangu, 2 and 
said to have belonged to Saint David. A certain woman 
secretely conveyed this bell to her husband, who was 
confined in the castle of Raidergwy, 3 near Warthrenion, 
(which Rhys, son of Gruffydd, had lately built) for the 
purpose of his deliverance. The keepers of the castle 
not only refused to liberate him for this consideration, 
but seized and detained the bell ; and in the same night, 
by divine vengeance, the whole town, except the wall 
on which the bell hung, was consumed by fire. 

The church of Luel, 4 in the neighbourhood of Bre- 

1 Glascum is a small village in a mountainous and retired situa- 
tion between Builth and Kington, in Herefordshire. 

2 Bangu. This was a hand bell kept in all the Welsh churches, 
which the clerk or sexton took to the house of the deceased on the 
day of the funeral: when the procession began, a psalm was sung; 
the bellman then sounded his bell in a solemn manner for some 
time, till another psalm was concluded; and he again sounded it 
at intervals, till the funeral arrived at the church. 

3 Rhaiadyr, called also Rhaiader-gwy, is a small village and 
market-town in Radnorshire. The site only of the castle, built 
by prince Rhys, a.d. 1178, now remains at a short distance from 
the village; it was strongly situated on a natural rock above the 
river Wye, which, below the bridge, forms a cataract. 

4 Llywel, a small village about a mile from Trecastle, on the 
great road leading from thence to Llandovery; it was anciently 
a township, and by charter of Philip and Mary was attached to 
the borough of Brecknock, by the name of Trecastle ward. 

Itinerary Through Wales 17 

cheinoc {Brechinia), was burned, also in our time, by the 
enemy, and everything destroyed, except one small box, 
in which the consecrated host was deposited. 

It came to pass also in the province of Elvenia, which 
is separated from Hay by the river Wye, in the night in 
which king Henry I. expired, that two pools x of no small 
extent, the one natural, the other artificial, suddenly 
burst their bounds ; the latter, by its precipitate course 
down the declivities, emptied itself; but the former, 
with its fish and contents, obtained a permanent situation 
in a valley about two miles distant. In Normandy, a 
few days before the death of Henry II., the fish of a cer- 
tain pool near Seez, five miles from the castle of Exme, 
fought during the night so furiously with each other, 
both in the water and out of it, that the neighbouring 
people were attracted by the noise to the spot; and so 
desperate was the conflict, that scarcely a fish was found 
alive in the morning ; thus, by a wonderful and unheard- 
of prognostic, foretelling the death of one by that of 

But the borders of Wales sufficiently remember and 
abhor the great and enormous excesses which, from 
ambitious usurpation of territory, have arisen amongst 
brothers and relations in the districts of Melenyth, 
Elvein, and Warthrenion, situated between the Wye and 
the Severn. 

1 Leland, in his description of this part of Wales, mentions a 
lake in Low Elvel, or Elvenia, which may perhaps be the same as 
that alluded to in this passage of Giraldus. " There is a llinne in 
Low Elvel within a mile of Payne's castel by the church called 
Lanpeder. The llinne is caullid Bougklline, and is of no great 
quantite, but is plentiful of pike, and perche, and eles." Leland, 
Itin. torn. v. p. 72. 


1 8 Giraldus Cambrensis 



Having crossed the river Wye, we proceeded towards 
Brecheinoc, and on preaching a sermon at Hay/ we 
observed some amongst the multitude, who were to be 
signed with the cross (leaving their garments in the 
hands of their friends or wives, who endeavoured to keep 
them back), fly for refuge to the archbishop in the castle. 
Early in the morning we began our journey to Aber- 
hodni, and the word of the Lord being preached at 
Landeu, 2 we there spent the night. The castle and chief 
town of the province, situated where the river Hodni 
joins the river Usk, is called Aberhodni; 3 and every 
place where one river falls into another is called Aber in 
the British tongue. Landeu signifies the church of God. 

1 Hay. A pleasant market-town on the southern banks of the 
river Wye, over which there is a bridge. It still retains some 
marks of baronial antiquity in the old castle, within the present 
town, the gateway of which is tolerably perfect. A high raised 
tumulus adjoining the church marks the site of the more ancient 
fortress. The more modern and spacious castle owes its founda- 
tion probably to one of those Norman lords, who, about the year 
1090, conquered this part of Wales. Little notice is taken of this 
castle in the Welsh chronicles; but we are informed that it was 
destroyed in 123 1, by Henry II., and that it was refortified by 
Henry III. 

2 Llanddew, a small village, about two miles from Brecknock, 
on the left of the road leading from thence to Hay; its manor 
belongs to the bishops of Saint David's, who had formerly a castel- 
lated mansion there, of which some ruins still remain. The tithes 
of this parish are appropriated to the archdeaconry of Brecknock, 
and here was the residence of our author Giraldus, which he men- 
tions in several of his writings, and alludes to with heartfelt satis- 
faction at the end of the third chapter of this Itinerary. 

3 Aberhodni, the ancient name of the town and castle of Breck- 
nock, derived from its situation at the confluence of the river 
Hodni with the Usk. The castle and two religious buildings, of 
which the remains are still extant, owed their foundation to 
Bernard de Newmarch, a Norman knight, who, in the year 1090, 
obtained by conquest the lordship of Brecknock. [The modern 
Welsh name is Aberhonddu.] 

Itinerary Through Wales 19 

The a.chdeacon of that place (Giraldus) presented to the 
archbishop his work on the Topography of Ireland, 
which he graciously received, and either read or heard a 
part of it read attentively every day during his journey; 
and on his return to England completed the perusal of it. 
I have determined not to omit mentioning those occur- 
rences worthy of note which happened in these parts in 
our days. It came to pass before that great war, in 
which nearly all this province was destroyed by the sons 
of Jestin, 1 that the large lake, and the river Leveni, 2 
which flows from it into the Wye, opposite Glasbyry, 3 
were tinged with a deep green colour. The old people of 
the country were consulted, and answered, that a short 
time before the great desolation 4 caused by Howel, son 
of Meredyth, the water had been coloured in a similar 
manner. About the same time, a chaplain, whose name 
was Hugo, being engaged to officiate at the chapel of 
Saint Nicholas, in the castle of Aberhodni, saw in a 
dream a venerable man standing near him, and saying, 
" Tell thy lord William de Braose, 5 who has the audacity 

1 Iestyn ap Gwrgant was lord of the province of Morganwg, or 
Glamorgan, and a formidable rival to Rhys ap Tewdwr, prince of 
South Wales; but unable to cope with him in power, he prevailed 
on Robert Fitzhamon, a Norman knight, to come to his assistance. 

2 This little river rises near the ruins of Blanllyfni castle, be- 
tween Llangorse pool and the turnpike road leading from Breck- 
nock to Abergavenny, and empties itself into the river Usk, near 

3 A pretty little village on the southern banks of the Usk, about 
four miles from Hay, en the road leading to Brecknock. 

4 The great desolation here alluded to, is attributed by Dr. 
Powel to Howel and Meredyth, sons of Edwyn ap Eineon; not to 
Howel, son of Meredith. In the year 1021, they conspired against 
Llewelyn ap Sitsyllt, and slew him: Meredith was slain in 1033, 
and Howel in 1043. 

5 William de Breusa, or Braose, was by extraction a Norman, 
and had extensive possessions in England, as well as Normandy: 
he was succeeded by his son Philip, who, in the reign of William 
Rufus, favoured the cause of king Henry against Robert Curthose, 
duke of Normandy; and being afterwards rebellious to his sove- 
reign, was disinherited of his lands. By his marriage with Berta, 
daughter of Milo, earl of Hereford, he gained a rich inheritance in 
Brecknock Overwent, and Gower. He left issue two sons: Wil- 
liam and Philip: William married Maude de Saint Wallery, and 

20 Giraldus Cambrensis 

to retain the property granted to the chapel of Saint 
Nicholas for charitable uses, these words : ' The public 
treasury takes away that which Christ does not receive; 
and thou wilt then give to an impious soldier, what thou 
wilt not give to a priest.' ' This vision having been 
repeated three times, he went to the archdeacon of the 
place, at Landeu, and related to him what had happened. 
The archdeacon immediately knew them to be the words 
of Augustine ; and shewing him that part of his writings 
where they were found, explained to him the case to 
which they applied. He reproaches persons who held 
back tithes and other ecclesiastical dues; and what he 
there threatens, certainly in a short time befell this 
withholder of them : for in our time we have duly and 
undoubtedly seen, that princes who have usurped ecclesi- 
astical benefices (and particularly king Henry the Second, 
who laboured under this vice more than others), have 
profusely squandered the treasures of the church, and 
given away to hired soldiers what in justice should have 
been given only to priests. 

Yet something is to be said in favour of the aforesaid 
William de Braose, although he greatly offended in this 
particular (since nothing human is perfect, and to have 
knowledge of all things, and in no point to err, is an 
attribute of God, not of man); for he always placed the 
name of the Lord before his sentences, saying, " Let this 
be done in the name of the Lord; let that be done by 
God's will; if it shall please God, or if God grant leave; 
it shall be so by the grace of God." We learn from Saint 

succeeded to the great estate of his father and mother, which he 
kept in peaceable possession during the reigns of king Henry II. 
and king Richard I. In order to avoid the persecutions of king 
John, he retired with his family to Ireland; and from thence 
returned into Wales; on hearing of the king's arrival in Ireland, 
his wife Maude fled with her sons into Scotland, where she was 
taken prisoner, and in the year 12 10 committed, with William, 
her son and heir, to Corf castle, and there miserablv starved to 
death, by order of king John; her husband, William de Braose, 
escaped into France disguised, and dving there, was buried in the 
abbey church of Saint Victor, at Paris. The family of Saint 
Walery, or Valery, derived their name from a sea-port in France. 

Itinerary Through Wales 21 

Paul, that everything ought thus to be committed and 
referred to the will of God. On taking leave of his 
brethren, he says, " I will return to you again, if God 
permit;" and Saint James uses this expression, "If 
the Lord will, and we live," in order to show that all 
things ought to be submitted to the divine disposal. 
The letters also which William de Braose, as a rich and 
powerful man, was accustomed to send to different 
parts, were loaded, or rather honoured, with words ex- 
pressive of the divine indulgence to a degree not only 
tiresome to his scribe, but even to his auditors; for as 
a reward to each of his scribes for concluding his letters 
with the words, " by divine assistance," he gave annually 
a piece of gold, in addition to their stipend. When on a 
journey he saw a church or a cross, although in the midst 
of conversation either with his inferiors or superiors, 
from an excess of devotion, he immediately began to 
pray, and when he had finished his prayers, resumed his 
conversation. On meeting boys in the way, he invited 
them by a previous salutation to salute him, that the 
blessings of these innocents, thus extorted, might be 
returned to him. His wife, Matilda de Saint Valery, 
observed all these things : a prudent and chaste woman ; 
a woman placed with propriety at the head of her house, 
equally attentive to the economical disposal of her pro- 
perty within doors, as to the augmentation of it without ; 
both of whom, I hope, by their devotion obtained 
temporal happiness and grace, as well as the glory of 

It happened also that the hand of a boy, who was 
endeavouring to take some young pigeons from a nest, in 
the church of Saint David of Llanvaes, 1 adhered to the 
stone on which he leaned, through the miraculous ven- 

1 A small church dedicated to Saint David, in the suburbs "of 
Brecknock, on the great road leading from thence to Trecastle. 
" The paroche of Llanvays. Llan-chirch-Vais extra, ac si diceres. 
extra muros. It standeth betwixt the river of Uske and Tvr- 
torelle brooke, that is, about the lower ende of the town of Breke- 
nok." Lcland, Itin. torn. v. p. 69. 

22 Giraldus Cambrensis 

geance, perhaps, of that saint, in favour of the birds who 
had taken refuge in his church; and when the boy, 
attended by his friends and parents, had for three suc- 
cessive days and nights offered up his prayers and suppli- 
cations before the holy altar of the church, his hand was, 
on the third day, liberated by the same divine power 
which had so miraculously fastened it. We saw this 
same boy at Newbury, in England, now advanced in 
years, presenting himself before David the Second, 1 
bishop of Saint David's, and certifying to him the truth 
of this relation, because it had happened in his diocese. 
The stone is preserved in the church to this day among 
the relics, and the marks of the five fingers appear im- 
pressed on the flint as though it were in wax. 

A small miracle happened at St. Edmundsbury to a 
poor woman, who often visited the shrine of the saint, 
under the mask of devotion; not with the design of 
giving, but of taking something away, namely, the silver 
and gold offerings, which, by a curious kind of theft, she 
licked up by kissing, and carried away in her mouth. 
But in one of these attempts her tongue and lips adhered 
to the altar, when by divine interposition she was de- 
tected, and openly disgorged the secret theft. Many 
persons, both Jews and Christians, expressing their 
astonishment, flocked to the place, where for the greater 
part of the day she remained motionless, that no possible 
doubt might be entertained of the miracle. 

In the north of England beyond the Humber, in the 
church of Hovedene, 2 the concubine of the rector in- 
cautiously sat down on the tomb of St. Osana, sister of 
king Osred, 3 which projected like a wooden seat; on 
wishing to retire, she could not be removed, until the 
people came to her assistance ; her clothes were rent, her 

1 David Fitzgerald was promoted to the see of Saint David's in 
1147, or, according to others, in 1149. He died a.d. 1176. 

2 Now Howden, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. 

3 Osred was king of the Northumbrians, and son of Alfred. He 
commenced to reign in a.d. 791, but was deprived of his crown 
the following year. 

Itinerary Through Wales 23 

body was laid bare, and severely afflicted with many 
strokes of discipline, even till the blood flowed; nor did 
she regain her liberty, until by many tears and sincere 
repentance she had showed evident signs of compunction. 
What miraculous power hath not in our days been dis- 
played by the psalter of Quindreda, sister of St. Kenelm, 1 
by whose instigation he was killed ? On the vigil of the 
saint, when, according to custom, great multitudes of 
women resorted to the feast at Winchelcumbe, 2 the under 
butler of that convent committed fornication with one of 
them within the precincts of the monastery. This same 
man on the following day had the audacity to carry the 
psalter in the procession of the relics of the saints ; and 
on his return to the choir, after the solemnity, the psalter 
stuck to his hands. Astonished and greatly confounded, 
and at length calling to his mind his crime on the pre- 
ceding day, he made confession, and underwent penance ; 
and being assisted by the prayers of the brotherhood, and 
having shown signs of sincere contrition, he was at length 
liberated from the miraculous bond. That book was 
held in great veneration ; because, when the body of St. 
Kenelm was carried forth, and the multitude cried out, 
"He is the martyr of God ! truly he is the martyr of 
God ! " Quindreda, conscious and guilty of the murder 
of her brother, answered, " He is as truly the martyr of 
God as it is true that my eyes be on that psalter; " for, 

1 St. Kenelm was the only son and heir of Kenulfus, king of the 
Mercians, who left him under the care of his two sisters, Quendreda 
and Bragenilda. The former, blinded by ambition, resolved to 
destroy the innocent child, who stood between her and the throne; 
and for that purpose prevailed on Ascebert, who attended con- 
stantly on the king, to murder him privately, giving him hopes, 
in case he complied with her wishes, of making him her partner 
in the kingdom. Under the pretence of diverting his young 
master, this wicked servant led him into a retired vale at Clent, 
in Staffordshire, and having murdered him, dug a pit, and cast 
his body into it, which was discovered by a miracle, and carried 
in solemn procession to the abbey of Winchelcomb. In the parish 
of Clent is a small chapel dedicated to this saint. 

2 Winchelcumbe, or Winchcomb, in the lower part of the hundred 
of Kiftsgate, in Gloucestershire, a few miles to the north of Chel- 

24 Giraldus Cambrensis 

as she was reading the psalter, both her eyes were 
miraculously torn from her head, and fell on the book, 
where the marks of the blood yet remain. 

Moreover I must not be silent concerning the collar 
{torques) which they call St. Canauc's ; x for it is most like 
to gold in weight, nature, and colour; it is in four pieces 
wrought round, joined together artificially, and clef ted 
as it were in the middle, with a dog's head, the teeth 
standing outward; it is esteemed by the inhabitants so 
powerful a relic, that no man dares swear falsely when it 
is laid before him: it bears the marks of some severe 
blows, as if made with an iron hammer; for a certain 
man, as it is said, endeavouring to break the collar for 
the sake of the gold, experienced the divine vengeance, 
was deprived of his eyesight, and lingered the remainder 
of his days in darkness. 

A similar circumstance concerning the horn of St. 
Patrick (not golden indeed, but of brass [probably 
bronze], which lately was brought into these parts from 
Ireland) excites our admiration. The miraculous power 
of this relic first appeared with a terrible example in that 
country, through the foolish and absurd blowing of 
Bernard, a priest, as is set forth in our Topography of 
Ireland. Both the laity and clergy in Ireland, Scotland, 
and Wales held in such great veneration portable bells, 
and staves crooked at the top, and covered with gold, 
silver, or brass, and similar relics of the saints, that they 
were much more afraid of swearing falsely by them than 
by the gospels ; because, from some hidden and miracu- 
lous power with which they are gifted, and the vengeance 
of the saint to whom they are particularly pleasing, their 
despisers and transgressors are severely punished. The 

1 St. Kynauc, who flourished about the year 492, was the re- 
puted son of Brychan, lord of Brecknock, by Benadulved, daughter 
of Benadyl, a prince of Powis, whom he seduced during the time 
of his detention as an hostage at the court of her father. He is 
said to have been murdered upon the mountain called the Van, 
and buried in the church of Merthyr Cynawg, or Cynawg the 
Martyr, near Brecknock, which is dedicated to his memory. 

Itinerary Through Wales 25 

most remarkable circumstance attending this horn is, 
that whoever places the wider end of it to his ear will 
hear a sweet sound and melody united, such as ariseth 
from a harp gently touched. 

In our days a strange occurrence happened in the same 
district. A wild sow, which by chance had been suckled 
by a bitch famous for her nose, became, on growing up, 
so wonderfully active in the pursuit of wild animals, that 
in the faculty of scent she was greatly superior to dogs, 
who are assisted by natural instinct, as well as by human 
art; an argument that man (as well as every other 
animal) contracts the nature of the female who nurses 
him. Another prodigious event came to pass nearly at 
the same time. A soldier, whose name was Gilbert 
Hagernel, after an illness of nearly three years, and the 
severe pains as of a woman in labour, in the presence of 
many people, voided a calf. A portent of some new and 
unusual event, or rather the punishment attendant on 
some atrocious crime. It appears also from the ancient 
and authentic records of those parts, that during the 
time St. Elwitus l led the life of a hermit at Llanhame- 
lach, 2 the mare that used to carry his provisions to him 
was covered by a stag, and produced an animal of 
wonderful speed, resembling a horse before and a stag 

1 In Welsh, Illtyd, which has been latinised into Iltutus, as in 
the instance of St. Iltutus, the celebrated disciple of Germanus, 
and the master of the learned Gildas, who founded a college for 
the instruction of youth at Llantwit, on the coast of Glamorgan- 
shire; but I do not conceive this to be the same person. The 
name of Ty- Illtyd, or St. Illtyd's house, is still known at Llanam- 
llech, but it is applied to one of those monuments of Druidical 
antiquity called a cistvaen, erected upon an eminence named 
Maenest, at a short distance from the village. A rude, upright 
stone stood formerly on one side of it, and was called by the 
country people Maen Illtyd, or Illtyd's stone, but was removed 
about a century ago. A well, the stream of which divides this 
parish from the neighbouring one of Llansaintfraid, is called 
Ffynnon Illtyd, or Illtyd's well. This was evidently the site of 
the hermitage mentioned by Giraldus. 

2 Lhanhamelach, or Llanamllech, is a small village, three miles 
from Brecknock, on the road to Abergavenny. 

26 Giraldus Cambrensis 

Bernard de Newmarch 1 was the first of the Normans 
who acquired by conquest from the Welsh this province, 
which was divided into three cantreds. 2 He married 
the daughter of Nest, daughter of Gruffydd, son of 
Llewelyn, who, by his tyranny, for a long time had op- 
pressed Wales ; his wife took her mother's name of Nest, 
which the English transmuted into Anne; by whom he 
had children, one of whom, named Mahel, a distin- 
guished soldier, was thus unjustly deprived of his paternal 
inheritance. His mother, in violation of the marriage 
contract, held an adulterous intercourse with a certain 
knight; on the discovery of which, the son met the 
knight returning in the night from his mother, and 
having inflicted on him a severe corporal punishment, 
and mutilated him, sent him away with great disgrace. 
The mother, alarmed at the confusion which this event 
caused, and agitated with grief, breathed nothing but 
revenge. She therefore went to king Henry I., and 
declared with assertions more vindictive than true, and 
corroborated by an oath, that her son Mahel was not the 
son of Bernard, but of another person with whom she 
had been secretly connected. Henry, on account of 
this oath, or rather perjury, and swayed more by his 
inclination than by reason, gave away her eldest daughter, 

1 The name of Newmarche appears in the chartulary of Battel 
abbey, as a witness to one of the charters granted by William the 
Conqueror to the monks of Battel in Sussex, upon his foundation 
of their house. He obtained the territory of Brecknock by con- 
quest, from Bleddyn ap Maenarch, the Welsh regulus thereof, 
about the year 1092, soon after his countryman, Robert Fitzhamon, 
had reduced the county of Glamorgan. He built the present 
town of Brecknock, where he also founded a priory of Benedictine 
monks. According to Leland, he was buried in the cloister of 
the cathedral church at Gloucester, though the mutilated remains 
of an effigy and monument are still ascribed to him in the priory 
church at Brecknock. 

2 Brecheinoc, now Brecknockshire, had three cantreds or hun- 
dreds, and eight comots. 1. Cantref Selef with the comots of 
Selef and Trahayern. 2. Cantref Canol, or the middle hundred, 
with the comots Talgarth, Ystradwy, and Brwynlys, or Eglyws 
Yail. 3. Cantref Mawr, or the great hundred, with the comots 
of Tir Raulff Llywel, and Cerrig Howel. Powel's description of 
Wales, p. 20. 

Itinerary Through Wales 27 

whom she owned as the legitimate child of Bernard; in 
marriage to Milo Fitz-Walter, 1 constable of Gloucester, 
with the honour of Brecheinoc as a portion ; and he was 
afterwards created earl of Hereford by the empress 
Matilda, daughter of the said king. By this wife he had 
five celebrated warriors; Roger, Walter, Henry, Wil- 
liam, and Mahel; all of whom, by divine vengeance, or 
by fatal misfortunes, came to untimely ends; and yet 
each of them, except William, succeeded to the paternal 
inheritance, but left no issue. Thus this woman (not 
deviating from the nature of her sex), in order to satiate 
her anger and revenge, with the heavy loss of modesty, 
and with the disgrace of infamy, by the same act de- 
prived her son of his patrimony, and herself of honour. 
Nor is it wonderful if a woman follows her innate bad 
disposition: for it is written in Ecclesiastes, " I have 
found one good man out of a thousand, but not one good 
woman; " and in Ecclesiasticus, " There is no head above 
the head of a serpent; and there is no wrath above the 
wrath of a woman; " and again, " Small is the wicked- 
ness of man compared to the wickedness of woman." 
And in the same manner, as we may gather grapes off 
thorns, or figs off thistles, Tully, describing the nature 
of women, says, " Men, perhaps, for the sake of some 
advantage will commit one crime ; but woman, to gratify 
one inclination, will not scruple to perpetrate all sorts 
of wickedness." Thus Juvenal, speaking of women, 

" Nihil est audacior illis 

Deprensis, iram atque animos a crimine sumunt. 
Mulier saevissima tunc est 

1 Milo was son to Walter, constable of England in the reign of 
Henry I., and Emme his wife, one of the daughters of Dru de 
Baladun, sister to Hameline de Baladun, a person of great note, 
who came into England with William the Conqueror, and, being 
the first lord of Overwent in the county of Monmouth, built the 
castle of Abergavenny. He was wounded by an arrow while 
hunting, on Christmas eve, in 1144, and was buried in the chapter- 
house of Lanthoni, near Gloucester. 

28 Giraldus Cambrensis 

Cum stimulos animo pudor admovet. 

collige, quod vindicta 

Nemo magis gaudet quam foemina. 

But of the five above-mentioned brothers and sons of earl 
Milo, the youngest but one, and the last in the inherit- 
ance, was the most remarkable for his inhumanity ; he 
persecuted David II., bishop of St. David's, to such a 
degree, by attacking his possessions, lands, and vassals, 
that he was compelled to retire as an exile from the 
district of Brecheinoc into England, or to some other 
parts of his diocese. Meanwhile, Mahel, being hospitably 
entertained by Walter de Clifford, 1 in the castle of Brend- 
lais, 2 the house was by accident burned down, and he 
received a mortal blow by a stone falling from the prin- 
cipal tower on his head: upon which he instantly dis- 
patched messengers to recal the bishop, and exclaimed 
with a lamentable voice, " 0, my father and high priest, 
your saint has taken most cruel vengeance of me, not 
waiting the conversion of a sinner, but hastening his 
death and overthrow." Having often repeated similar 
expressions, and bitterly lamented his situation, he thus 
ended his tyranny and life together; the first year of 
his government not having elapsed. 

A powerful and noble personage, by name Brachanus, 
was in ancient times the ruler of the province of Brechei- 
noc, and from him it derived this name. The British 
histories testify that he had four-and-twenty daughters, 

1 Walter de Clifford. The first of this ancient family was called 
Ponce; he had issue three sons, Walter, Drogo or Dru, and 
Richard. The Conqueror's survey takes notice of the two 
former, but from Richard the genealogical line is preserved, who, 
being called Richard de Pwns, obtained, as a gift from king Henry 
I., the cantref Bychan. or little hundred, and the castle of Llan- 
dovery, in Wales; he left three sons, Simon, Walter, and Richard. 
The Walter de Clifford here mentioned was father to the celebrated 
Fair Rosamond, the favourite of king Henry II.; and was suc- 
ceeded by his eldest son, Walter, who married Margaret, daughter 
to Llewelyn, prince of Wales, and widow of John de Braose. 

2 Brendlais, or Brynllys, is a small village on the road between 
Brecknock and Hay, where a stately round tower marks the site 
of the ancient castle of the Cliffords, in which the tyrant Mahel 
lost his life. 

Itinerary Through Wales 29 

all of whom, dedicated from their youth to religious 
observances, happily ended their lives in sanctity. 
There are many churches in Wales distinguished by their 
names, one of which, situated on the summit of a hill, 
near Brecheinoc, and not far from the castle of Aberhodni, 
is called the church of St. Almedda, 1 after the name of the 
holy virgin, who, refusing there the hand of an earthly 
spouse, married the Eternal King, and triumphed in a 
happy martyrdom; to whose honour a solemn feast is 
annually held in the beginning of August, and attended 
by a large concourse of people from a considerable dis- 
tance, when those persons who labour under various 
diseases, through the merits of the Blessed Virgin, re- 
ceived their wished -for health. The circumstances 
which occur at every anniversary appear to me remark- 
able. You may see men or girls, now in the church, now 
in the churchyard, now in the dance, which is led round 
the churchyard with a song, on a sudden falling on the 
ground as in a trance, then jumping up as in a frenzy, 
and representing with their hands and feet, before the 
people, whatever work they have unlawfully done on 
feast days; you may see one man put his hand to the 
plough, and another, as it were, goad on the oxen, miti- 
gating their sense of labour, by the usual rude song: 2 

1 St. Almedha, though not included in the ordinary lists, is said 
to have been a daughter of Brychan, and sister to St. Canoe, and 
to have borne the name of Elevetha, Aled, or Elyned, latinised 
into Almedha. The Welsh genealogists say, that she suffered 
martyrdom on a hill near Brecknock, where a chapel was erected 
to her memory; and William of Worcester says she was buried 
at Usk. Mr. Hugh Thomas (who wrote an essay towards the 
history of Brecknockshire in the year 1698) speaks of the chapel as 
standing, though unroofed and useless, in his time; the people 
thereabouts call it St. Tayled. It was situated on an eminence, 
about a mile to the eastward of Brecknock, and about half a mile 
from a farm-house, formerly the mansion and residence of the 
Aubreys, lords of the manor of Slwch, which lordship was be- 
stowed upon Sir Reginald Awbrey by Bernard Newmarche, in the 
reign of William Rufus. Some small vestiges of this building 
may still be traced, and an aged yew tree, with a well at its foot, 
marks the site near which the chapel formerly stood. 

2 This same habit is still (in Sir Richard Colt Hoare's time) used 
by the Welsh ploughboys; they have a sort of chaunt, consisting 

30 Giraldus Cambrensis 

one man imitating the profession of a shoemaker; 
another, that of a tanner. Now you may see a girl with 
a distaff, drawing out the thread, and winding it again 
on the spindle; another walking, and arranging the 
threads for the web; another, as it were, throwing the 
shuttle, and seeming to weave. On being brought into 
the church, and led up to the altar with their oblations, 
you will be astonished to see them suddenly awakened, 
and coming to themselves. Thus, by the divine mercy, 
which rejoices in the conversion, not in the death, of 
sinners, many persons from the conviction of their 
senses, are on these feast days corrected and mended. 

This country sufficiently abounds with grain, and if 
there is any deficiency, it is amply supplied from the 
neighbouring parts of England; it is well stored with 
pastures, woods, and wild and domestic animals. River- 
fish are plentiful, supplied by the Usk on one side, and 
by the Wye on the other ; each of them produces salmon 
and trout; but the Wye abounds most with the former, 
the Usk with the latter. The salmon of the Wye are in 
season during the winter, those of the Usk in summer; 
but the Wye alone produces the fish called umber, 1 the 
praise of which is celebrated in the works of Ambrosius, 
as being found in great numbers in the rivers near Milan ; 
" What," says he, " is more beautiful to behold, more 
agreeable to smell, or more pleasant to taste? ' : The 
famous lake of Brecheinoc supplies the country with 
pike, perch, excellent trout, tench, and eels. A circum- 
stance concerning this lake, which happened a short 
time before our days, must not be passed over in silence. 
" In the reign of king Henry I., Gruffydd, 2 son of Rhys 

of half or even quarter notes, which is sung to the oxen at plough: 
the countrymen vulgarly supposing that the beasts are consoled 
to work more regularly and patiently by such a lullaby. 

1 The umber, or grayling, is still a plentiful and favourite fish 
in the rivers on the Welsh border. 

2 About the year 1113, "there was a talke through Sou.h 
Wales, of Gruffyth, the sonne of Rees ap Theodor, who, for feare of 
the king, had beene of a child brought up in Ireland, and had 
come over two yeares passed, which time he had spent privilie 

Itinerary Through Wales 3 1 

ap Tewdwr, held under the king one comot, namely, the 
fourth part of the cantred of Caoc, 1 in the cantref Mawr, 
which, in title and dignity, was esteemed by the Welsh 
equal to the southern part of Wales, called Deheubarth, 
that is, the right-hand side of Wales. When Gruffydd, 
on his return from the king's court, passed near this lake, 
which at that cold season of the year was covered with 
water-fowl of various sorts, being accompanied by Milo, 
earl of Hereford, and lord of Brecheinoc, and Payn 
Fitz-John, lord of Ewyas, who were at that time secre- 
taries and privy counsellors to the king; earl Milo, wish- 
ing to draw forth from Gruffydd some discourse concern- 
ing his innate nobility, rather jocularly than seriously 

with his freends, kinsfolks, and affines; as with Gerald, steward 
of Penbrooke, his brother-in-law, and others. But at the last he 
was accused to the king, that he intended the kingdome of South 
Wales as his father had enjoied it, which was now in the king's 
hands; and that all the countrie hoped of libertie through him; 
therefore the king sent to take him. But Gryffyth ap Rees hering 
this, sent to Gruffyth ap Conan, prince of North Wales, desiring 
him of his aid, and that he might remaine safelie within his 
countrie; which he granted, and received him joiouslie for his 
father's sake." He afterwards proved so troublesome and suc- 
cessful an antagonist, that the king endeavoured by every possible 
means to get him into his power. To Gruffyth ap Conan he 
offered " mountaines of gold to send the said Gruffyth or his head 
to him." And at a subsequent period, he sent for Owen ap- 
Cadogan, and said to him, " Owen, I have found thee true and 
faithful unto me, therefore I desire thee to take or kill that 
murtherer, Gruffyth ap Rees, that doth so trouble my loving sub- 
jects." But Gruffyth escaped all the snares which the king had 
laid for him, and in the year 1137 died a natural and honourable 
death; he is styled in the Welsh chronicle, " the light, honor, and 
staie of South Wales; " and distinguished as the bravest, the 
wisest, the most merciful, liberal, and just, of all the princes of 
Wales. By his wife Gwenllian, the daughter of Gruffyth ap 
Conan, be left a son, commonly called the lord Rhys, who met 
the arch jishop at Radnor, as is related in the first chapter of this 

1 This cantref, which now bears the name of Caeo, is placed, 
according to the ancient divisions of Wales, in the cantref Bychan, 
or little hundred, and not in the Cantref Mawr, or great hundred. 
A village between Lampeter in Cardiganshire and Llandovery in 
Caermarthenshire, still bears the name of Cynwil Caeo, and, from 
its picturesque situation and the remains of its mines, which were 
probably worked by the Romans, deserves the notice of the 
curious traveller. 

32 Giraldus Cambrensis 

thus addressed him: " It is an ancient saying in Wales, 
that if the natural prince of the country, coming to this 
lake, shall order the birds to sing, they will immediately 
obey him." To which Gruffydd, richer in mind than 
in gold, (for though his inheritance was diminished, his 
ambition and dignity still remained), answered, " Do 
you therefore, who now hold the dominion of this land, 
first give the command; " but he and Payn having in 
vain commanded, and Gruffydd, perceiving that it was 
necessary for him to do so in his turn, dismounted from 
his horse, and falling on his knees towards the east, as 
if he had been about to engage in battle, prostrate on 
the ground, with his eyes and hands uplifted to heaven, 
poured forth devout prayers to the Lord: at length, 
rising up, and signing his face and forehead with the 
figure of the cross, he thus openly spake: " Almighty 
God, and Lord Jesus Christ, who knowest all things, 
declare here this day thy power. If thou hast caused me 
to descend lineally from the natural princes of Wales, I 
command these birds in thy name to declare it; " and 
immediately the birds, beating the water with their 
wings, began to cry aloud, and proclaim him. The 
spectators were astonished and confounded; and earl 
Milo hastily returning with Payn Fitz-John to court, 
related this singular occurrence to the king, who is said 
to have replied, " By the death of Christ (an oath he 
was accustomed to use), it is not a matter of so much 
wonder; for although by our great authority we commit 
acts of violence and wrong against these people, yet they 
are known to be the rightful inheritors of this land." 
The lake also 1 (according to the testimony of the in- 

1 The lake of Brecheinoc bears the several names of Llyn Savad- 
dan, Brecinau-mere, Llangorse, andTalyllyn Pool, the two latter of 
which are derived from the names of parishes on its banks. It is 
a large, though by no means a beautiful, piece of water, its banks 
being low and flat, and covered with rushes and other aquatic 
plants to a considerable distance from the shore. Pike, perch, 
and eels are the common fish of this water; tench and trout are 
rarely, I believe, (if ever), taken in it. The notion of its naving 
swallowed up an ancient city is not yet quite exploded by the 

Itinerary Through Wales 33 

habitants) is celebrated for its miracles ; for, as we have 
before observed, it sometimes assumed a greenish hue, 
so in our days it has appeared to be tinged with red, not 
universally, but as if blood flowed partially through 
certain veins and small channels. Moreover it is some- 
times seen by the inhabitants covered and adorned with 
buildings, pastures, gardens, and orchards. In the 
winter, when it is frozen over, and the surface of the 
water is converted into a shell of ice, it emits a horrible 
sound resembling the moans of many animals collected 
together; but this, perhaps, may be occasioned by the 
sudden bursting of the shell, and the gradual ebullition 
of the air through imperceptible channels. This country 
is well sheltered on every side (except the northern) by 
high mountains; on the western by those of cantref 
Bychan; 1 on the southern, by that range, of which the 
principal is Cadair Arthur, 2 or the chair of Arthur, so 

natives ; and some will even attribute the name of Loventium to 
it ; which is with much greater certainty fixed at Llanio-isau, 
between Lampeter and Tregaron, in Cardiganshire, on the 
northern banks of the river Teivi, where there are very consider- 
able and undoubted remains of a large Roman city. The legend 
of the town at the bottom of the lake is at the same time very old. 

1 That chain of mountains which divides Brecknockshire from 
Caermarthenshire, over which the turnpike road formerly passed 
from Trecastle to Llandovery, and from which the river Usk 
derives its source. 

2 This mountain is now called, by way of eminence, the Van, 
or the height, but more commonly, by country people, Bannau 
Brycheinog, or the Brecknock heights, alluding to its two peaks. 
Our author, Giraldus, seems to have taken his account of the 
spring, on the summit of this mountain, from report, rather than 
from ocular testimony. I (Sir R. Colt Hoare) examined the 
summits of each peak very attentively, and could discern no 
spring whatever. The soil is peaty and very boggy. On the 
declivity of the southern side of the mountain, and at no consider- 
able distance from the summit, is a spring of very fine water, 
which my guide assured me never failed. On the north-west side 
of the mountain is a round pool, in which possibly trout may 
have been sometimes found, but, from the muddy nature of its 
waters, I do not think it very probable; from this pool issues a 
small brook, which falls precipitously down the sides of the moun- 
tain, and pursuing its course through a narrow and well-wooded 
valley, forms a pretty cascade near a rustic bridge which traverses 
it. I am rather inclined to think, that Giraldus confounded in 
his account the spring and the pool together. 


34 Giraldus Cambrensis 

called from two peaks rising up in the form of a chair, 
and which, from its lofty situation, is vulgarly ascribed 
to Arthur, the most distinguished king of the Britons. 
A spring of water rises on the summit of this mountain, 
deep, but of a square shape, like a well, and although 
no stream runs from it, trout are said to be sometimes 
found in it. 

Being thus sheltered on the south by high mountains, 
the cooler breezes protect this district from the heat 
of the sun, and, by their natural salubrity, render the 
climate most temperate. Towards the east are the 
mountains of Talgarth and Ewyas. 1 The natives of 
these parts, actuated by continual enmities and im- 
placable hatred, are perpetually engaged in bloody con- 
tests. But we leave to others to describe the great and 
enormous excesses, which in our time have been here 
committed, with regard to marriages, divorces, and 
many other circumstances of cruelty and oppression. 



In the deep vale of Ewyas, 2 which is about an arrow-shot 
broad, encircled on all sides by lofty mountains, stands 

1 The first of these are now styled the Black Mountains, of 
which the Gadair Fawr is the principal, and is only secondary to 
the Van in height. The Black Mountains are an extensive range 
of hills rising to the east of Talgarth, in the several parishes of 
Talgarth, Llaneliew, and Llanigorn, in the county of Brecknock, 
and connected with the heights of Ewyas. The most elevated 
point is called Y Gadair, and, excepting the Brecknock Van (the 
Cadair Arthur of Giraldus), is esteemed the highest mountain in 
South Wales. The mountains of Ewyas are those now called 
the Hatterel Hills, rising above the monastery of Llanthoni, and 
joining the Black Mountains of Talgarth at Capel y Ffin, or the 
chapel upon the boundary, near which the counties of Hereford, 
Brecknock, and Monmouth form a point of union. But English 
writers have generally confounded all distinction, calling them 
indiscriminately the Black Mountains, or the Hatterel Hills. 

2 If we consider the circumstances of this chapter, it will appear 

Itinerary Through Wales 35 

the church of Saint John the Baptist, covered with lead, 
and built of wrought stone ; and, considering the nature 
of the place, not unhandsomely constructed, on the 
very spot where the humble chapel of David, the arch- 
bishop, had formerly stood decorated only with moss 
and ivy. A situation truly calculated for religion, and 
more adapted to canonical discipline, than all the 
monasteries of the British isle. It was founded by two 
hermits, in honour of the retired life, far removed from 
the bustle of mankind, in a solitary vale watered by the 
river Hodeni. From Hodeni it was called Lanhodeni, for 
Lan signifies an ecclesiastical place. This derivation 
may appear far-fetched, for the name of the place, in 
Welsh, is Nanthodeni. Nant signifies a running stream,, 
from whence this place is still called by the inhabitants 
Landewi Nanthodeni, 1 or the church of Saint David 
upon the river Hodeni. The English therefore corruptly 
call it Lanthoni, whereas it should either be called Nan- 
thodeni, that is, the brook of the Hodeni, or Lanhodeni, 
the church upon the Hodeni. Owing to its mountainous 
situation, the rains are frequent, the winds boisterous, 

very evidently, that the vale of Ewyas made no part of the actual 

1 Landewi Nant Hodeni, or the church of St. David on the 
Hodni, is now better known by the name of Llanthoni abbey. A 
small and rustic chapel, dedicated to St. David, at first occupied 
the site of this abbey; in the year 1103, William de Laci, a Nor- 
man knight, having renounced the pleasures of the world, retired 
to this sequestered spot, where he was joined in his austere pro- 
fession by Ernicius, chaplain to queen Maude. In the year 1108, 
these hermits erected a mean church in the place of their hermit- 
age, which was consecrated by Urban, bishop of Llandaff, and 
Rameline, bishop of Hereford, and dedicated to St. John the 
Baptist: having afterward received very considerable benefac- 
tions from Hugh de Laci, and gained the consent of Anselm, arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, these same hermits founded a magnificent 
monastery for Black canons, of the order of St. Augustine, which 
they immediately filled with forty monks collected from the 
monasteries of the Holy Trinity in London, Merton in Surrey, 
and Colchester in Essex. They afterwards removed to Gloucester, 
where they built a church and spacious monastery, which, aftei 
the name of their former residence, they called Llanthoni; it was 
consecrated a.d. 1136, by Simon, bishop of Worcester, and Robert. 
Betun bishop of Hereford, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.j 


Giraldus Cambrensis 

and the clouds in winter almost continual. The air, 
though heavy, is healthy ; and diseases are so rare, that 
the brotherhood, when worn out by long toil and afflic- 
tion during their residence with the daughter, retiring 
to this asylum, and to their mother's l lap, soon regain 
their long-wished-for health. For as my Topographical 
History of Ireland testifies, in proportion as we proceed 
to the eastward, the face of the sky is more pure and 
subtile, and the air more piercing and inclement; but 
as we draw nearer to the westward, the air becomes more 
cloudy, but at the same time is more temperate and 
healthy. Here the monks, sitting in their cloisters, en- 
joying the fresh air, when they happen to look up towards 
the horizon, behold the tops of the mountains, as it were, 
touching the heavens, and herds of wild deer feeding on 
their summits: the body of the sun does not become 
visible above the heights of the mountains, even in a 
clear atmosphere, till about the hour of prime, or a little 
before. A place truly fitted for contemplation, a happy 
and delightful spot, fully competent, from its first estab- 
lishment, to supply -all its own wants, had not the ex- 
travagance of English luxury, the pride of a sumptuous 
table, the increasing growth of intemperance and in- 
gratitude, added to the negligence of its patrons and 
prelates, reduced it from freedom to servility ; and if the 
step-daughter, no less enviously than odiously, had not 
supplanted her mother. 

It seems worthy of remark, that all the priors who were 
hostile to this establishment, died by divine visitation. 
William, 2 who first despoiled the place of its herds and 
storehouses, being deposed by the fraternity, forfeited 
bis right of sepulture amongst the priors. Clement 

1 The titles of mother and daughter are here applied to the 
mother church in Wales, and the daughter near Gloucester. 

2 William of Wycumb, the fourth prior of Llanthoni, succeeded 
to Robert de Braci, who was obliged to quit the monastery, on 
account of the hostile molestation it received from the Welsh. 
To him succeeded Clement, the sub-prior, and to Clement, Roger 
de Norwich. 

Itinerary Through Wales 37 

seemed to like this place of study and prayer, yet, after 
the example of Heli the priest, as he neither reproved 
nor restrained his brethren from plunder and other 
offences, he died by a paralytic stroke. And Roger, 
who was more an enemy to this place than either of his 
predecessors, and openly carried away every thing which 
they had left behind, wholly robbing the church of its 
books, ornaments, and privileges, was also struck with 
a paralytic affection long before his death, resigned his 
honours, and lingered out the remainder of his days in 

In the reign of king Henry I., when the mother church 
was as celebrated for her affluence as for her sanctity 
(two qualities which are seldom found thus united), the 
daughter not yet being in existence (and I sincerely wish 
she never had been produced), the fame of so much 
religion attracted hither Roger, bishop of Salisbury, who 
was at that time prime minister; for it is virtue to love 
virtue, even in another man, and a great proof of innate 
goodness to show a detestation of those vices which 
hitherto have not been avoided. When he had reflected 
with admiration on the nature of the place, the solitary 
life of the fraternity, living in canonical obedience, and 
serving God without a murmur or complaint, he returned 
to the king, and related to him what he thought most 
worthy of remark; and after spending the greater part 
of the day in the praises of this place, he finished his 
panegyric with these words: " Why should I say more? 
the whole treasure of the king and his kingdom would 
not be sufficient to build such a cloister." Having held 
the minds of the king and the court for a long time in 
suspense by this assertion, he at length explained the 
enigma, by saying that he alluded to the cloister of 
mountains, by which this church is on every side sur- 
rounded. But William, a knight, who first discovered 
this place, and his companion Ervistus, a priest, having 
heard, perhaps, as it is written in the Fathers, according 
to the opinion of Jerome, " that the church of Christ 

38 Giraldus Cambrensis 

decreased in virtues as it increased in riches/' were 
accustomed often devoutly to solicit the Lord that this 
place might never attain great possessions. They were 
exceedingly concerned when this religious foundation 
hegan to be enriched by its first lord and patron, Hugh 
de Lacy, 1 and by the lands and ecclesiastical benefices 
conferred upon it by the bounty of others of the faithful : 
from their predilection to poverty, they rejected many 
offers of manors and churches; and being situated in a 
wild spot, they would not suffer the thick and wooded 
parts of the valley to be cultivated and levelled, lest they 
should be tempted to recede from their heremitical mode 
of life. 

But whilst the establishment of the mother church in- 
creased daily in riches and endowments, availing herself 
of the hostile state of the country, a rival daughter 
sprang up at Gloucester, under the protection of Milo, 
earl of Hereford ; as if by divine providence, and through 
the merits of the saints and prayers of those holy men 
(of whom two lie buried before the high altar), it were 
destined that the daughter church should be founded in 
superfluities, whilst the mother continued in that laud- 
able state of mediocrity which she had always affected 
and coveted. Let the active therefore reside there, the 
contemplative here; there the pursuit of terrestrial 
riches, here the love of celestial delights; there let them 
enjoy the concourse of men, here the presence of angels; 
there let the powerful of this world be entertained, here 
let the poor of Christ be relieved; there, I say, let human 
actions and declamations be heard, but here let reading 
and prayers be heard only in whispers; there let opu- 

1 Walter de Laci came into England with William the Con- 
queror, and left three sons, Roger, Hugh, and Walter. Hugh de 
Laci was the lord of Ewyas, and became afterwards the founder 
of the convent of Llanthoni; his elder brother, Robert, held also 
four caracutes of land within the limits of the castle of Ewyas, 
which king William had bestowed on Walter, his father; but 
joining in rebellion against William Rufus, he was banished the 
kingdom, and all his lands were given to his brother Hugh, who 
died without issue. 

Itinerary Through Wales 39 

lence, the parent and nurse of vice, increase with cares, 
here let the virtuous and golden mean be all-sufficient. 
In both places the canonical discipline instituted by 
Augustine, which is now distinguished above all other 
orders, is observed; for the Benedictines, when their 
wealth was increased by the fervour of charity, and 
multiplied by the bounty of the faithful, under the pre- 
text of a bad dispensation, corrupted by gluttony and 
indulgence an order which in its original state of poverty 
was held in high estimation. The Cistercian order, 
derived from the former, at first deserved praise and 
commendation from its adhering voluntarily to the 
original vows of poverty and sanctity: until ambition, 
the blind mother of mischief, unable to fix bounds to 
prosperity, was introduced; for as Seneca says, " Too 
great happiness makes men greedy, nor are their desires 
ever so temperate, as to terminate in what is acquired: " 
a step is made from great things to greater, and men 
having attained what they did not expect, form the most 
unbounded hopes; to which the poet Ovid thus alludes: 

" Luxuriant animi rebus plerumque secundis, 
Nee facile est aequa commoda mente pati ; 

And again: 

Creverunt opes et opum furiosa cupido, 

Et cum possideant plurima, plura petunt." 

And also the poet Horace: 

scilicet improbas 

Crescunt divitias, tamen 

Curta3 nescio quid semper abest rei. 
Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam 

Majorumque fames." 

To which purpose the poet Lucan says : 

-O vita? tuta facultas 

Pauperis, angustique lares, o munera nondum 
Intellecta Deum! " 

4-0 Giraldus Cambrensis 

And Petronius: 

Non bibit inter aquas nee poma fugacia carpit 
Tantalus infelix, quem sua vota premunt. 

Divitis hie magni facies erit, omnia late 
Qui tenet, et sicco concoquit ore famem." 

The mountains are full of herds and horses, the woods 
well stored with swine and goats, the pastures with sheep, 
the plains with cattle, the arable fields with ploughs; 
and although these things in very deed are in great 
abundance, yet each of them, from the insatiable nature 
of the mind, seems too narrow and scanty. Therefore 
lands are seized, landmarks removed, boundaries in- 
vaded, and the markets in consequence abound with 
merchandise, the courts of justice with law-suits, and the 
senate with complaints. Concerning such things, we 
read in Isaiah, " Woe unto them that join house to 
house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that 
they be placed alone in the midst of the earth." 

If therefore, the prophet inveighs so much against 
those who proceed to the boundaries, what would he say 
to those who go far beyond them? From these and 
other causes, the true colour of religion was so converted 
into the dye of falsehood, that manners internally black 
assumed a fair exterior: 

" Qui color albus erat, nunc est contrarius albo." 

So that the scripture seems to be fulfilled concerning 
these men, " Beware of false prophets, who come to you 
in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous 
wolves." But I am inclined to think this avidity does 
not proceed from any bad intention. For the monks of 
this Order (although themselves most abstemious) in- 
cessantly exercise, more than any others, the acts of 
charity and beneficence towards trie poor and strangers; 
and because they do not live as others upon fixed in- 
comes, but depend only on their labour and forethought 
for subsistence, they are anxious to obtain lands, farms, 

Itinerary Through Wales 41 

and pastures, which may enable them to perform these 
acts of hospitality. However, to repress and remove 
from this sacred Order the detestable stigma of ambi- 
tion, I wish they would sometimes call to mind what is 
written in Ecclesiasticus, " Whoso bringeth an offering of 
the goods of the poor, doth as one that killeth the son 
before his father's eyes;" and also the sentiment of 
Gregory, " A good use does not justify things badly 
acquired; " and also that of Ambrose, " He who wrong- 
fully receives, that he may well dispense, is rather 
burthened than assisted." Such men seem to say with 
the Apostle, " Let us do evil that good may come."' 
For it is written, " Mercy ought to be of such a nature 
as may be received, not rejected, which may purge away 
sins, not make a man guilty before the Lord, arising from 
your own just labours, not those of other men." Hear 
what Solomon says; " Honour the Lord from your just 
labours." What shall they say who have seized upon 
other men's possessions, and exercised charity? " O 
Lord! in thy name we have done charitable deeds, we 
have fed the poor, clothed the naked, and hospitably 
received the stranger: " to whom the Lord will answer; 
" Ye speak of what ye have given away, but speak not 
of the rapine ye have committed; ye relate concerning 
those ye have fed, and remember not those ye have 
killed." I have judged it proper to insert in this place 
an instance of an answer which Richard, king of the 
English, made to Fulke, 1 a good and holy man, by whom 

1 This anecdote is thus related by the historian Hollinshed : 
" Hereof it came on a time, whiles the king sojourned in France 
about his warres, which he held against king Philip, there came 
unto him a French priest, whose name was Fulco, who required 
the king in anywise to put from him three abominable daughters 
which he had, and to bestow them in marriage, least God punished 
him for them. ' Thou liest, hypocrite (said the king), to thy 
verie face; for all the world knoweth I have not one daughter.' 
' I lie not (said the priest), for thou hast three daughters: one of 
them is called Pride, the second Covetousness, and the third 
Lecherie.' With that the king called to him his lords and barons, 
and said to them, ' This hypocrite heere hath required me to 
marry awaie my three daughters, which (as he saith) I cherish, 

42 Giraldus Cambrensis 

'God in these our days has wrought many signs in the 
kingdom of France. This man had among other things 
said to the king; " You have three daughters, namely, 
Pride, Luxury, and Avarice; and as long as they shall 
remain with you, you can never expect to be in favour 
with God." To which the king, after a short pause, 
replied: " I have already given away those daughters in 
marriage: Pride to the Templars, Luxury to the Black 
Monks, and Avarice to the White." It is a remarkable 
circumstance, or rather a miracle, concerning Lanthoni, 
that, although it is on every side surrounded by lofty 
mountains, not stony or rocky, but of a soft nature, and 
covered with grass, Parian stones are frequently found 
there, and are called free-stones, from the facility with 
which they admit of being cut and polished; and with 
these the church is beautifully built. It is also wonder- 
ful, that when, after a diligent search, all the stones have 
been removed from the mountains, and no more can be 
found, upon another search, a few days afterwards, they 
reappear in greater quantities to those who seek them. 
With respect to the two Orders, the Cluniac and the 
Cistercian, this may be relied upon; although the latter 
are possessed of fine buildings, with ample revenues and 
estates, they will soon be reduced to poverty and destruc- 
tion. To the former, on the contrary, you would allot a 
barren desert and a solitary wood ; yet in a few years you 
will find them in possession of sumptuous churches and 
houses, and encircled with an extensive property. The 
difference of manners (as it appears to me) causes this 
contrast. For as without meaning offence to either 
party, I shall speak the truth, the one feels the benefits 

nourish, foster, and mainteine; that is to say, Pride, Covetous- 
ness, and Lecherie: and now that I have found out necessarie 
and fit husbands for them, I will do it with effect, and seeke no 
more delaies. I therefore bequeath my pride to the high-minded 
Templars and Hospitallers, which are as proud as Lucifer him- 
selfe; my covetousness I give unto the White Monks, otherwise 
called of the Cisteaux Order, for they covet the divell and all; 
my lecherie I commit to the prelats of the church, who have most 
pleasure and felicitie therein.' " 

Itinerary Through Wales 43 

of sobriety, parsimony, and prudence, whilst the other 
suffers from the bad effects of gluttony and intemperance : 
the one, like bees, collect their stores into a heap, and 
unanimously agree in the disposal of one well-regulated 
purse; the others pillage and divert to improper uses 
the largesses which have been collected by divine 
assistance, and by the bounties of the faithful; and 
whilst each individual consults solely his own interest, 
the welfare of the community suffers; since, as Sallust 
observes, " Small things increase by concord, and the 
greatest are wasted by discord." Besides, sooner than 
lessen the number of one of the thirteen or fourteen 
dishes which they claim by right of custom, or even in a 
time of scarcity or famine recede in the smallest degree 
from their accustomed good fare, they would suffer the 
richest lands and the best buildings of the monastery to 
become a prey to usury, and the numerous poor to perish 
before their gates. 

The first of these Orders, at a time when there was a 
deficiency in grain, with a laudable charity, not only 
gave away their flocks and herds, but resigned to the 
poor one of the two dishes with which they were always 
contented. But in these our days, in order to remove 
this stain, it is ordained by the Cistercians, " That in 
future neither farms nor pastures shall be purchased; 
and that they shall be satisfied with those alone which 
have been freely and unconditionally bestowed upon 
them." This Order, therefore, being satisfied more than 
any other with humble mediocrity, and, if not wholly, 
yet in a great degree checking their ambition; and 
though placed in a worldly situation, yet avoiding, as 
much as possible, its contagion; neither notorious for 
gluttony or drunkenness, for luxury or lust; is fearful 
and ashamed of incurring public scandal, as will be more 
fully explained in the book we mean (by the grace of 
God) to write concerning the ecclesiastical Orders. 

In these temperate regions I have obtained (according 
to the usual expression) a place of dignity, but no great 

44 Giraldus Cambrensis 

omen of future pomp or riches; and possessing a small 
residence l near the castle of Brecheinoc, well adapted to 
literary pursuits, and to the contemplation of eternity, 
I envy not the riches of Croesus; happy and contented 
with that mediocrity, which I prize far beyond all the 
perishable and transitory things of this world. But let 
us return to our subject. 



From thence 2 we proceeded through the narrow, woody 
tract called the bad pass of Coed Grono, leaving the 

1 This small residence of the archdeacon was at Landeu, a place 
which has been described before: the author takes this oppor- 
tunity of hinting at his love of literature, religion, and mediocrity. 

2 The last chapter having been wholly digressive, we must now 
recur back to Brecknock, or rather, perhaps, to our author's 
residence at Landeu, where we left him, and from thence accom- 
pany him to Abergavenny. It appears that from Landeu he 
took the road to Talgarth, a small village a little to the south east 
of the road leading from Brecknock to Hay; from whence, climb- 
ing up a steep ascent, now called Rhiw Cwnstabl, or the Con- 
stable's ascent, he crossed the black mountains of Llaneliew to 
the source of the Gronwy-fawr river, which rises in that eminence, 
and pursues its rapid course into the Vale of Usk. From thence 
a rugged and uneven track descends suddenly into a narrow glen, 
formed by the torrent of the Gronwy, between steep, impending 
mountains; bleak and barren for the first four or five miles, but 
afterwards wooded to the very margin of the stream. A high 
ledge of grassy hills on the left hand, of which the principal is 
called the Bal, or Y Fal, divides this formidable pass (the " Malus 
passus " of Giraldus) from the vale of Ewyas, in which stands the 
noble monastery of Llanthoni, " montibus suis inclusum," en- 
circled by its mountains. The road at length emerging from this 
deep recess of Coed Grono, or Cwm Gronwy. the vale of the river 
Gronwy, crosses the river at a place called Pont Escob, or the 
Bishop's bridge, probably so called from this very circumstance 
of its having been now passed by the archbishop and his suite, 
and is continued through the forest of Moel, till it joins the Here- 
ford road, about two miles from Abergavenny. This formidable 
defile is at least nine miles in length. 

Itinerary Through Wales 45 

noble monastery of Lanthoni, inclosed by its moun- 
tains, on our left. The castle of Abergevenni is so called 
from its situation at the confluence of the river Gevenni 
with the Usk. 

It happened a short time after the death of king Henry 
I., that Richard de Clare, a nobleman of high birth, and 
lord of Cardiganshire, passed this way on his journey 
from England into Wales, accompanied by Brian de 
Wallingford, lord of this province, and many men-at- 
arms. At the passage of Coed Grono, 1 and at the 
entrance into the wood, he dismissed him and his atten- 
dants, though much against their will, and proceeded on 
his journey unarmed; from too great a presumption of 
security, preceded only by a minstrel and a singer, one 
accompanying the other on the fiddle. The Welsh 
awaiting his arrival, with Iorwerth, brother of Morgan 
of Caerleon, at their head, and others of his family, 
rushed upon him unawares from the thickets, and killed 
him and many of his followers. Thus it appears how 
incautious and neglectful of itself is too great presump- 
tion; for fear teaches foresight and caution in pros- 
perity, but audacity is precipitate, and inconsiderate 
rashness will not await the advice of the leader. 

1 In the vale of the Gronwy, about a mile above Pont Escob, 
there is a wood called Coed Dial, or the Wood of Revenge. Here 
again, by the modern name of the place, we are enabled to fix the 
very spot on which Richard de Clare was murdered. The Welsh 
Chronicle informs us, that " in 1135, Morgan ap Owen, a man of 
considerable quality and estate in Wales, remembering the wrong 
and injury he had received at the hands of Richard Fitz-Gilbert, 
slew him, together with bis son Gilbert." The first of this great 
family, Richard de Clare, was the eldest son of Gislebert, sur- 
named Crispin, earl of Brion, in Normandy. This Richard Fitz- 
Gilbert came into England with William the Conqueror, and 
received from him great advancement in honour and possessions. 
On the death of the Conqueror, favouring the cause of Robert 
Curthose, he rebelled against William Rufus, but when that king 
appeared in arms before his castle at Tunbridge, he submitted; 
after which, adhering to Rufus against Robert, in 1091, he was 
taken prisoner, and shortly after the death of king Henry I., was 
assassinated, on his journey through Wales, in the manner already 

4 6 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

A sermon having been delivered at Abergevenni, 1 and 
many persons converted to the cross, a certain noble- 
man of those parts, named Arthenus, came to the arch- 
bishop, who was proceeding towards the castle of Usk, 
and humbly begged pardon for having neglected to meet 
him sooner. Being questioned whether he would take 
the cross, he replied, " That ought not be done without 
the advice of his friends." The archbishop then asked 
him, " Are you not going to consult your wife? " To 
which he modestly answered, with a downcast look, 
" When the work of a man is to be undertaken, the 
counsel of a woman ought not to be asked; " and in- 
stantly received the cross from the archbishop. 

We leave to others the relation of those frequent and 
cruel excesses which in our times have arisen amongst 
the inhabitants of these parts, against the governors of 
castles, and the vindictive retaliations of the governors 
against the natives. But king Henry II. was the true 
author, and Ranulf Poer, sheriff of Hereford, the instru- 
ment, of the enormous cruelties and slaughter perpe- 
trated here in our days, which I thought better to omit, 

1 Hamelin, son of Dru de Baladun, who came into England with 
William the Conqueror, was the first lord of Over- Went, and built 
a castle at Abergavenny, on the same spot where, according to 
ancient tradition, a giant called Agros had erected a fortress. He 
died in the reign of William Rufus, and was buried in the priory 
which he had founded at Abergavenny; having no issue, he gave 
the aforesaid castle and lands to Brian de Insula, or Brian de 
Wallingford, his nephew, by his sister Lucia. The enormous 
excesses mentioned by Giraldus, as having been perpetrated in 
this part of Wales during his time, seem to allude to a transaction 
that took place in the castle of Abergavenny, in the year 1176, 
which is thus related by two historians, Matthew Paris and Hol- 
linshed. " a.d. 1176, The same yeare, William de Breause having 
got a great number of Welshmen into the castle of Abergavennie, 
under a colourable pretext of communication, proposed this 
ordinance to be received of them with a corporall oth, ' That no 
traveller by the waie amongst them should beare any bow, or 
other unlawful weapon,' which oth, when they refused to take, 
because they would not stand to that ordinance, he condemned 
them all to death. This deceit he used towards them, in revenge 
of the death of his uncle Henrie of Hereford, whom upon Easter- 
even before they had through treason murthered, and were now 
acquited was the like againe." Hollinshed, torn. ii. p. 95. 

Itinerary Through Wales 47 

lest bad men should be induced to follow the example; 
for although temporary advantage may seem to arise 
from a base cause, yet, by the balance of a righteous 
judge, the punishment of wickedness may be deferred, 
though not totally avoided, according to the words of 
the poet, 

" Non habet eventus sordida prasda bonos." 

For after seven years of peace and tranquillity, the sons, 
and grandsons of the deceased, having attained the 
age of manhood, took advantage of the absence of the 
lord of the castle (Abergevenni), and, burning with re- 
venge, concealed themselves, with no inconsiderable force,, 
during the night, within the woody foss of the castle. 
One of them, name Sisillus (Sitsylt) son of Eudaf, on the 
preceding day said rather jocularly to the constable, 
" Here will we enter this night," pointing out to him a. 
certain angle in the wall where it seemed the lowest; but 

" Ridendo dicere verum 

Quis vetat? " 


" fas est et ab hoste doceri," 

the constable and his household watched all night under 
arms, till at length, worn out by fatigue, they all retired 
to rest on the appearance of daylight, upon which the 
enemy attacked the walls with scaling-ladders, at the 
very place that had been pointed out. The constable 
and his wife were taken prisoners, with many others, a 
few persons only escaping, who had sheltered themselves 
in the principal tower. With the exception of this 
stronghold, the enemy violently seized and burned every- 
thing; and thus, by the righteous judgment of God, the 
crime was punished in the very place where it had been 
committed. A short time after the taking of this 
fortress, when the aforesaid sheriff was building a castle.- 

4 8 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

at Landinegat, 1 near Monmouth, with the assistance of 
the army he had brought from Hereford, he was attacked 
at break of day, when 

" Tythoni croceum linquens Aurora cubile " 

was only beginning to divest herself of the shades of 
night, by the young men from Gwent and the adjacent 
parts, with the descendants of those who had been slain. 
Though aware of this premeditated attack, and prepared 
and drawn up in battle array, they were nevertheless 
repulsed within their intrenchments, and the sheriff, 
together with nine of the chief men of Hereford, and 
many others, were pierced to death with lances. It is 
remarkable that, although Ranulf, besides many other 
mortal wounds, had the veins and arteries of his neck, 
and his windpipe separated with a sword, he made signs 
for a priest, and from the merit of his past life, and the 
honour and veneration he had shewn to those chosen into 
the sacred order of Christ, he was confessed, and received 
extreme unction before he died. And, indeed, many 
events concur to prove that, as those who respect the 
priesthood, in their latter days enjoy the satisfaction of 
friendly intercourse, so do their revilers and accusers 
often die without that consolation. William de Braose, 
who was not the author of the crime we have preferred 
passing over in silence, but the executioner, or, rather, 
not the preventer of its execution, while the murderous 
bands were fulfilling the orders they had received, was 
precipitated into a deep foss, and being taken by the 
enemy, was drawn forth, and only by a sudden effort of 
his own troops, and by divine mercy, escaped uninjured. 
Hence it is evident that he who offends in a less degree, 
and unwillingly permits a thing to be done, is more 
mildly punished than he who adds counsel and authority 
to his act. Thus, in the sufferings of Christ, Judas was 

1 Landinegat, or the church of St. Dingad, is now better known 
by the name of Dingatstow, or Dynastow, a village near Mon- 
; mouth. 

Itinerary Through Wales 49 

punished with hanging, the Jews with destruction and 
banishment, and Pilate with exile. But the end of the 
king, who assented to and ordered this treachery, suffi- 
ciently manifested in what manner, on account of this 
and many other enormities he had committed (as in the 
book " De Instructione Principis," by God's guidance, 
we shall set forth), he began with accumulated ignominy, 
sorrow, and confusion, to suffer punishment in this world. 1 
It seems worthy of remark, that the people of what is 
called Venta 2 are more accustomed to war, more famous 
for valour, and more expert in archery, than those of any 
other part of Wales. The following examples prove the 
truth of this assertion. In the last capture of the afore- 
said castle, which happened in our days, two soldiers 
passing over a bridge to take refuge in a tower built on 
a mound of earth, the Welsh, taking them in the rear, 
penetrated with their arrows the oaken portal of the 
tower, which was four fingers thick ; in memory of which 
circumstance, the arrows were preserved in the gate. 
William de Braose also testifies that one of his soldiers, 
in a conflict with the Welsh, was wounded by an arrow, 
which passed through his thigh and the armour with 
which it was cased on both sides, and, through that part 
of the saddle which is called the alva, mortally wounded 
the horse. Another soldier had his hip, equally sheathed 
in armour, penetrated by an arrow quite to the saddle, 
and on turning his horse round, received a similar wound 
on the opposite hip, which fixed him on both sides of his 
seat. What more could be expected from a balista? 
Yet the bows used by this people are not made of horn, 

1 [For the end of William de Braose, see note on p. 19.] 
Leland divides this district into Low, Middle, and High Vente- 
land, extending from Chepstow to Newport on one side, and to 
Abergavenny on the other; the latter of which, he says, " maketh 
the cumpace of Hye Venteland." He adds, " The soyle of al 
Venteland is of a darke reddische yerth ful of slaty stones, and 
other greater of the same color. The countrey is also sumwhat 
montayneus, and welle replenishid with woodes, also very fertyle 
of corne, but men there study more to pastures, the which be well 
inclosed." Leland, Itin. torn. v. p. 6. Ancient Gwentland is 
now comprised within the county of Monmouth. 


50 Giraldus Cambrensis 

ivory, or yew, but of wild elm; unpolished, rude, and 
uncouth, but stout; not calculated to shoot an arrow 
to a great distance, but to inflict very severe wounds in 
close fight. 

But let us again return to our Itinerary. 



At the castle of Usk, a multitude of persons influenced by 
the archbishop's sermon, and by the exhortations of the 
good and worthy William bishop of Landaf, 1 who faith- 
fully accompanied us through his diocese, were signed 
with the cross ; Alexander archdeacon of Bangor 2 acting 
as interpreter to the Welsh. It is remarkable that many 
of the most notorious murderers, thieves, and robbers of 
the neighbourhood were here converted, to the astonish- 
ment of the spectators. Passing from thence through 
Caerleon, and leaving far on our left hand the castle of 
Monmouth, and the noble forest of Dean, situated on the 
other side of the Wye and on this side the Severn, and 
which amply supplies Gloucester with iron and venison, 
we spent the night at Newport, having crossed the river 
Usk three times. 3 Caerleon means the city of Legions, 
Caer, in the British language, signifying a city or camp, 
for there the Roman legions, sent into this island, were 
accustomed to winter, and from this circumstance it was 
styled the city of legions. This city was of undoubted 

1 William de Salso Marisco, who succeeded to the bishopric of 
Llandaff, a.d. 1185, and presided over that see during the time 
of Baldwin's visitation, in 11 88. 

2 Alexander was the fourth archdeacon of the see of Bangor. 

3 Once at Usk, then at Caerleon, and afterwards on entering 
the town of Newport. 

Itinerary Through Wales 5 1 

antiquity, and handsomely built of masonry, with 
courses of bricks, by the Romans. Many vestiges of its 
former splendour may yet be seen; immense palaces, 
formerly ornamented with gilded roofs, in imitation of 
Roman magnificence, inasmuch as they were first raised 
by the Roman princes, and embellished with splendid 
buildings; a tower of prodigious size, remarkable hot 
baths, relics of temples, and theatres, all inclosed within 
fine walls, parts of which remain standing. You will 
find on all sides, both within and without the circuit of 
the walls, subterraneous buildings, aqueducts, under- 
ground passages; and what I think worthy of notice, 
stoves contrived with wonderful art, to transmit the heat 
insensibly through narrow tubes passing up the side walls. 

Julius and Aaron, after suffering martyrdom, were 
buried in this city, and had each a church dedicated 
to him. After Albanus and Amphibalus, they were 
esteemed the chief protomartyrs of Britannia Major. 
In ancient times there were three fine churches in this 
city : one dedicated to Julius the martyr, graced with a 
choir of nuns; another to Aaron, his associate, and en- 
nobled with an order of canons; and the third distin- 
guished as the metropolitan of Wales. Amphibalus, the 
instructor of Albanus in the true faith, was born in this 
place. This city is well situated on the river Usk, navi- 
gable to the sea, and adorned with woods and meadows. 
The Roman ambassadors here received their audience at 
the court of the great king Arthur; and here also, the 
archbishop Dubricius ceded his honours to David of 
Menevia, the metropolitan see being translated from this 
place to Menevia, according to the prophecy of Merlin 
Ambrosius; " Menevia pallio urbis Legionum induetur." 
" Menevia shall be invested with the pall of the city of 

Not far hence is a rocky eminence, impending over the 
Severn, called by the English Gouldcliffe, 1 or golden rock, 

1 Gouldcliffe, or Goldcliff, is situated a few miles S.E. of New- 
port, on the banks of the Severn. In the year 1113, Robert de 

52 Giraldus Cambrensis 

because from the reflections of the sun's rays it assumes a 
bright golden colour: 

" Nee mihi de facili fieri persuasio posset, 
Quod frustra tantum dederit natura nito rem 
Saxis, quodque suo fuerit flos hie sine fructu." 

Nor can I be easily persuaded that nature hath given 
such splendour to the rocks in vain, and that this flower 
should be without fruit, if any one would take the pains 
to penetrate deeply into the bowels of the earth; if any 
one, I say, would extract honey from the rock, and oil 
from the stone. Indeed many riches of nature lie con- 
cealed through inattention, which the diligence of pos- 
terity will bring to light; for, as necessity first taught the 
ancients to discover the conveniences of life, so industry, 
and a greater acuteness of intellect, have laid open many 
things to the moderns; as the poet says, assigning two 
causes for these discoveries, 

-labor omnia vincit 

Improbus, et duris urgens in rebus egestas." 

It is worthy of observation, that there lived in the 
neighbourhood of this City of Legions, in our time, a 
Welshman named Melerius, who, under the following 
circumstances, acquired the knowledge of future and 
occult events. Having, on a certain night, namely that 
of Palm Sunday, met a damsel whom he had long loved, 
in a pleasant and convenient place, while he was indulging 
in her embraces, suddenly, instead of a beautiful girl, he 
found in his arms a hairy, rough, and hideous creature, 
the sight of which deprived him of his senses, and he be- 
came mad. After remaining many years in this con- 
dition, he was restored to health in the church of St. 
David's, through the merits of its saints. But having 
always an extraordinary familiarity with unclean spirits, 

Candos founded and endowed the church of Goldclive, and, by 
the advice of king Henry I., gave it to the abbey of Bee, in Nor- 
mandy; its religious establishment consisted of a prior and twelve 
monks of the order of St. Benedict. 

Itinerary Through Wales 53 

by seeing them, knowing them, talking with them, and 
calling each by his proper name, he was enabled, through 
their assistance, to foretel future events. He was, indeed, 
often deceived (as they are) with respect to circumstances 
at a great distance of time or place, but was less mistaken 
in affairs which were likely to happen nearer, or within 
the space of a year. The spirits appeared to him 
usually on foot, equipped as hunters, with horns sus- 
pended from their necks, and truly as hunters, not of 
animals, but of souls. He particularly met them near 
monasteries and monastic cells; for where rebellion 
exists, there is the greatest need of armies and strength. 
He knew when any one spoke falsely in his presence, for 
he saw the devil, as it were, leaping and exulting upon 
the tongue of the liar. If he looked on a book faultily 
or falsely written, or containing a false passage, although 
wholly illiterate, he would point out the place with his 
finger. Being questioned how he could gain such know- 
ledge, he said that he was directed by the demon's finger 
to the place. In the same manner, entering into the 
dormitory of a monastery, he indicated the bed of any 
monk not sincerely devoted to religion. He said, that 
the spirit of gluttony and surfeit was in every respect 
sordid ; but that the spirit of luxury and lust was more 
beautiful than others in appearance, though in fact most 
foul. If the evil spirits oppressed him too much, the 
Gospel of St. John was placed on his bosom, when, like 
birds, they immediately vanished; but when that book 
was removed, and the History of the Britons, by Geoffrey 
Arthur, 1 was substituted in its place, they instantly re 
appeared in greater numbers, and remained a longer time 
than usual on his body and on the book. 

It is worthy of remark, that Barnabas placed the Gospel 
of St. Matthew upon sick persons, and they were healed; 
from which, as well as from the foregoing circumstance, 
it appears how great a dignity and reverence is due to the 
sacred books of the gospel, and with what danger and 
1 [Geoffrey of Monmouth.] 

54 Giraldus Cambrensis 

risk of damnation every one who swears falsely by them, 
deviates from the paths of truth. The fall of Enoch, 
abbot of Strata Marcella, 1 too well known in Wales, was 
revealed to many the day after it happened, by Melerius, 
who, being asked how he knew this circumstance, said, 
that a demon came to him disguised as a hunter, and, ex- 
ulting in the prospect of such a victory, foretold the ruin 
of the abbot, and explained in what manner he would 
make him run away with a nun from the monastery. 
The end in view was probably the humiliation and cor- 
rection of the abbot, as was proved from his shortly re- 
turning home so humbled and amended, that he scarcely 
could be said to have erred. Seneca says, " He falls 
not badly, who rises stronger from his fall." Peter was 
more strenuous after his denial of Christ, and Paul after 
being stoned ; since, where sin abounds, there will grace 
also superabound. Mary Magdalen was strengthened 
after her frailty. He secretly revealed to Canon, the 
good and religious abbot of Alba-domus, his opinion of 
a certain woman whom he had seen; upon which the 
holy man confessed, with tears in his eyes, his pre- 
dilection for her, and received from three priests the 
discipline of incontinence. For as that long and experi- 
enced subtle enemy, by arguing from certain conjectural 
signs, may foretell future by past events, so by insidious 
treachery and contrivance, added to exterior appear- 
ances, he may sometimes be able to discover the interior 
workings of the mind. 

At the same time there was in Lower Gwent a demon 

1 The Cistercian abbey here alluded to was known by the several 
names of Ystrat Marchel, Strata Marcella, Alba domus de Strat- 
margel, Vallis Crucis, or Pola, and was situated between Guilsfield 
and Welshpool, in Montgomeryshire. Authors differ in opinion 
about its original founder. Leland attributes it to Owen Cy- 
veilioc, prince of Powys, and Dugdale to Madoc, the son of Gruff- 
ydh, giving for his authority the original grants and endowments 
of this abbey. According to Tanner, about the beginning of the 
reign of king Edward III., the Welsh monks were removed from 
hence into English abbeys, and English monks were placed here, 
and the abbey was made subject to the visitation of the abbot 
and convent of Buildwas, in Shropshire. 

Itinerary Through Wales 55 

incubus, who, from his love for a certain young woman, 
and frequenting the place where she lived, often con- 
versed with men, and frequently discovered hidden 
things and future events. Melerius being interrogated 
concerning him, said he knew him well, and mentioned 
his name. He affirmed that unclean spirits conversed 
with mankind before war, or any great internal disturb- 
ance, which was shortly afterwards proved, by the 
destruction of the province by Howel, son of Iorwerth 
of Caerleon. At the same time, when king Henry II., 
having taken the king of Scotland prisoner, had restored 
peace to his kingdom, Howel, fearful of the royal revenge 
for the war he had waged, was relieved from his difficul- 
ties by these comfortable words of Melerius: "Fear 
not," says he, " Howel, the wrath of the king, since he 
must go into other parts. An important city which he 
possesses beyond sea is now besieged by the king of 
France, on which account he will postpone every other 
business, and hasten thither with all possible expedi- 
tion." Three days afterwards, Howel received advice 
that this event had really come to pass, owing to the 
siege of the city of Rouen. He forewarned also Howel 
of the betraying of his castle at Usk, a long time before it 
happened, and informed him that he should be wounded, 
but not mortally ; and that he should escape alive from 
the town. In this alone he was deceived, for he soon 
after died of the same wound. Thus does that arch- 
enemy favour his friends for a time, and thus does he at 
last reward them. 

In all these singular events it appears to me most won- 
derful that he saw those spirits so plainly with his carnal 
eyes, because spirits cannot be discerned by the eyes of 
mortals, unless they assume a corporeal substance; but 
if in order to be seen they had assumed such a substance, 
how could they remain unperceived by other persons 
who were present? Perhaps they were seen by such a 
miraculous vision as when king Balthazar saw the hand 
of one writing on the wall, " Mane, Techel, Phares," 


Giraldus Cambrensis 

that is, weighed, numbered, divided; who in the same 
night lost both his kingdom and his life. But Cambria 
well knows how in these districts, from a blind desire of 
dominion, a total dissolution of the endearing ties of 
consanguinity, and a bad and depraved example diffused 
throughout the country, good faith has been so shame- 
fully perverted and abused. 



At Newport, where the river Usk, descending from its 
original source in Cantref Bachan, falls into the sea, 
many persons were induced to take the cross. Having 
passed the river Remni, we approached the noble castle 
of Caerdyf, 1 situated on the banks of the river Taf. In 
the neighbourhood of Newport, which is in the district of 
Gwentluc, 2 there is a small stream called Nant Pen- 
earn, 3 passable only at certain fords, not so much owing 
to the depth of its waters, as from the hollowness of 
its channel and muddy bottom. The public road led 
formerly to a ford, called Ryd Pencarn, that is, the ford 

1 Cardiff, i.e., the fortress on the river Taf. 

2 Gwentluc so called from Gwent, the name of the province, 
and Hug, open, to distinguish it from the upper parts of Wentland) 
is an extensive tract of fiat, marshy ground, reaching from New- 
port to the shores of the river Severn. 

3 Nant Pencarn, or the brook of Pencarn. After a very atten- 
tive examination of the country round Newport, by natives of 
that place, and from the information I have received on the sub- 
ject, I am inclined to think that the river here alluded to was the 
Ebwy, which flows about a mile and a half south of Newport. 
Before the new turnpike road and bridge were made across Tre- 
degar Park, the old road led to a ford lower down the river, and 
may still be travelled as far as Cardiff; and was probably the 
ford mentioned in the text, as three old farm-houses in its neigh- 
bourhood still retain the names of Great Pencarn, Little Pencarn, 
and Middle Pencarn. 

Itinerary Through Wales $y 

under the head of a rock, from Rhyd, which in the 
British language signifies a ford, Pen, the head, and 
Cam, a rock; of which place Merlin Sylvester had thus 
prophesied: " Whenever you shall see a mighty prince 
with a freckled face make an hostile irruption into the 
southern part of Britain, should he cross the ford of Pen- 
earn, then know ye, that the force of Cambria shall be 
brought low." Now it came to pass in our times, that 
king Henry II. took up arms against Rhys, the son of 
Gruffydd, and directed his march through the southern 
part of Wales towards Caermardyn. On the day he in- 
tended to pass over Nant Pentcarn, the old Britons of 
the neighbourhood watched his approach towards the 
ford with the utmost solicitude; knowing, since he was 
both mighty and freckled, that if the passage of the 
destined ford was accomplished, the prophecy concern- 
ing him would undoubtedly be fulfilled. When the king 
had followed the road leading to a more modern ford of 
the river (the old one spoken of in the prophecy having 
been for a long time in disuse), and was preparing to pass 
over, the pipers and trumpeters, called Cornhiriet, from 
Mr, long, and cornu, a horn, began to sound their instru- 
ments on the opposite bank, in honour of the king. 
The king's horse, startling at the wild, unusual noise, 
refused to obey the spur, and enter the water; upon 
which, the king, gathering up the reins, hastened, in 
violent wrath, to the ancient ford, which he rapidly 
passed; and the Britons returned to their homes, 
alarmed and dismayed at the destruction which seemed 
to await them. An extraordinary circumstance occurred 
likewise at the castle of Caerdyf. William earl of Glou- 
cester, son of earl Robert, 1 who, besides that castle, 

1 Robert Fitz-Hamon, earl of Astremeville, in Normandy, came 
into England with William the Conqueror; and, by the gift of 
William Rufus, obtained the honour of Gloucester. He was 
wounded with a spear at the siege of Falaise, in Normandy, died 
soon afterwards, and was buried, a.d. 1102, in the abbey of 
Tewkesbury, which he had founded. Leaving no male issue, king 
Henry gave his eldest daughter, Mabel, or Maude, who, in her 
own right, had the whole honour of Gloucester, to his illegitimate 

58 Giraldus Cambrensis 

possessed by hereditary right all the province of Gwlad- 
vorgan, 1 that is, the land of Morgan, had a dispute with 
one of his dependants, whose name was Ivor the Little, 
being a man of short stature, but of great courage. 
This man was, after the manner of the Welsh, owner of 
a tract of mountainous and woody country, of the whole, 
or a part of which, the earl endeavoured to deprive him. 
At that time the castle of Caerdyf was surrounded with 
high walls, guarded by one hundred and twenty men- 
at-arms, a numerous body of archers, and a strong watch. 
The city also contained many stipendiary soldiers; yet, 
in defiance of all these precautions of security, Ivor, in 
the dead of night, secretly scaled the walls, and, seizing 
the count and countess, with their only son, carried them 
off into the woods, and did not release them until he had 
recovered everything that had been unjustly taken from 
him, and received a compensation of additional pro- 
perty ; for, as the poet observes, 

" Spectandum est semper ne magna injuria fiat 
Fortibus et miseris; tollas licet omne quod usquam est 
Argenti atque auri, spoliatis arma supersunt." 

In this same town of Caerdyf, king Henry II., on his 
return from Ireland, the first Sunday after Easter, passed 
the night. In the morning, having heard mass, he re- 
mained at his devotions till every one had quitted the 
chapel of St. Piranus. 2 As he mounted his horse at the 

son Robert, who was advanced to the earldom of Gloucester by 
the king, his father. He died a.d. 1147, and left four sons: Wil- 
liam, the personage here mentioned by Giraldus, who succeeded 
him in his titles and honours; Roger, bishop of Worcester, who 
died at Tours in France, a.d. 1179; Hamon, who died at the siege 
of Toulouse, a.d. 1159; and Philip. 

1 The Coychurch Manuscript quoted by Mr. Williams, in his 
History of Monmouthshire, asserts that Morgan, surnamed Mwyn- 
fawr, or the Gentle, the son of Athrwy, not having been elected 
to the chief command of the British armies, upon his father's 
death retired from Caerleon, and took up his residence in Glamor- 
ganshire, sometimes at Radyr, near Cardiff, and at other times 
at Margam; and from this event the district derived its name, 
quasi Gwlad-Morgan, the country of Morgan. 

2 St. Piranus, otherwise called St. Kiaran, or Piran, was an Irish 
saint, said to have been born in the county of Ossory, or of Cork, 

Itinerary Through Wales 59 

door, a man of a fair complexion, with a round tonsure 
and meagre countenance, tall, and about forty years of 
age, habited in a white robe falling down to his naked 
feet, thus addressed him in the Teutonic tongue: " God 
hold the, cuing," which signifies, " May God protect you, 
king;" and proceeded, in the same language, "Christ 
and his Holy Mother, John the Baptist, and the Apostle 
Peter salute thee, and command thee strictly to pro- 
hibit throughout thy whole dominions every kind of 
buying or selling on Sundays, and not to suffer any work 
to be done on those days, except such as relates to the 
preparation of daily food; that due attention may be 
paid to the performance of the divine offices. If thou 
dost this, all thy undertakings shall be successful, and 
thou shalt lead a happy life." The king, in French, 
desired Philip de Mercros, 1 who held the reins of his 
horse, to ask the rustic if he had dreamt this ? and when 
the soldier explained to him the king's question in Eng- 
lish, he replied in the same language he had before used, 
" Whether I have dreamt it or not, observe what day 
this is (addressing himself to the king, not to the inter- 
preter), and unless thou shalt do so, and quickly amend 
thy life, before the expiration of one year, thou shalt 
hear such things concerning what thou lovest best in 
this world, and shalt thereby be so much troubled, that 
thy disquietude shall continue to thy life's end." The 
king, spurring his horse, proceeded a little way towards 
the gate, when, stopping suddenly, he ordered his at- 
tendants to call the good man back. The soldier, and a 
young man named William, the only persons who re- 

about the middle of the fourth century; and after that by his 
labours the Gospel had made good progress, he forsook all worldly 
things, and spent the remainder of his life in religious solitude. 
The place of his retirement was on the sea-coast of Cornwall, 
and not far from Padstow, where, as Camden informs us, there 
was a chapel on the sands erected to his memory. Leland has 
informed us, that the chapel of St. Perine, at Caerdiff, stood in 
Shoemaker Street. 

1 So called from a parish of that name in Glamorganshire, 
situated between Monk Nash and St. Donat's, upon the Bristol 

60 Giraldus Cambrensis 

mained with the king, accordingly called him, and sought 
him in vain in the chapel, and in all the inns of the city. 
The king, vexed that he had not spoken more to him, 
waited alone a long time, while other persons went in 
search of him; and when he could not be found, pur- 
sued his journey over the bridge of Remni to Newport. 
The fatal prediction came to pass within the year, as the 
man had threatened; for the king's three sons, Henry, 
the eldest, and his brothers, Richard of Poitou, and 
Geoffrey, count of Britany, in the following Lent, de- 
serted to Louis king of France, which caused the king 
greater uneasiness than he had ever before experienced ; 
and which, by the conduct of some one of his sons, was 
continued till the time of his decease. This monarch, 
through divine mercy (for God is more desirous of the 
conversion than the destruction of a sinner), received 
many other admonitions and reproofs about this time, 
and shortly before his death ; all of which, being utterly 
incorrigible, he obstinately and obdurately despised, as 
will be more fully set forth (by the favour of God) in my 
book, " de Principis Instructione." 

Not far from Caerdyf is a small island situated near 
the shore of the Severn, called Barri, from St. Baroc, 1 
who formerly lived there, and whose remains are de- 
posited in a chapel overgrown with ivy, having been 

1 Barri Island is situated on the coast of Glamorganshire; and, 
according to Cressy, took its name from St. Baruc, the hermit, 
who resided, and was buried there. The Barrys in Ireland, as 
well as the family of Giraldus, who were lords of it, are said to 
have derived their names from this island. Leland, in speaking 
of this island, says, " The passage into Barrey isle at ful se is a 
flite shot over, as much as the Tamise is above the bridge. At 
low water, there is a broken causey to go over, or els over the 
shalow streamelet of Barrey-brook on the sands. The isle is 
about a mile in cumpace, and hath very good corne, grasse, and 
sum wood; the ferme of it worth aio a yere. There ys no dwell- 
ing in the isle, but there is in the middle of it a fair little chapel of 
St. Barrok, where much pilgrimage was usid." (The " fair little 
chapel " has disappeared, and " Barry Island " is now, since the 
construction of the great dock, connected with the mainland, it 
is covered with houses, and its estimated capital value is now 

Itinerary Through Wales 61 

transferred to a coffin. From hence a noble family, of the 
maritime parts of South Wales, who owned this island 
and the adjoining estates, received the name of de Barri. 
It is remarkable that, in a rock near the entrance of the 
island, there is a small cavity, to which, if the ear is 
applied, a noise is heard like that of smiths at work, the 
blowing of bellows, strokes of hammers, grinding of tools, 
and roaring of furnaces ; and it might easily be imagined 
that such noises, which are continued at the ebb and 
flow of the tides, were occasioned by the influx of the 
sea under the cavities of the rocks. 



On the following morning, the business of the cross being 
publicly proclaimed at Landaf, the English standing on 
one side, and the Welsh on the other, many persons of 
each nation took the cross, and we remained there that 
night with William bishop of that place, 1 a discreet and 
good man. The word Landaf 2 signifies the church 
situated upon the river Taf, and is now called the church 
of St. Teileau, formerly bishop of that see. The arch- 
bishop having celebrated mass early in the morning, 
before the high altar of the cathedral, we immediately 
pursued our journey by the little cell of Ewenith 3 to the 

1 William de Salso Marisco. 

2 The see of Llandaff is said to have been founded by the British 
king Lucius as early as the year 180. 

3 From Llandaff, our crusaders proceeded towards the Cistercian 
monastery of Margam, passing on their journey near the little cell 
of Benedictines at Ewenith, or Ewenny. This religious house 
was founded by Maurice de Londres towards the middle of the 
twelfth century. It is situated in a marshy plain near the banks 
of the little river Ewennv. 

62 Giraldus Cambrensis 

noble Cistercian monastery of Margan. 1 This monastery, 
under the direction of Conan, a learned and prudent 
abbot, was at this time more celebrated for its charitable 
deeds than any other of that order in Wales. On this 
account, it is an undoubted fact, that, as a reward for 
that abundant charity which the monastery had always, 
in times of need, exercised towards strangers and poor 
persons, in a season of approaching famine, their corn 
and provisions were perceptibly, by divine assistance, 
increased, like the widow's cruise of oil by the means of 
the prophet Elijah. About the time of its foundation, 
a young man of those parts, by birth a Welshman, hav- 
ing claimed and endeavoured to apply to his own use 
certain lands which had been given to the monastery, by 
the instigation of the devil set on fire the best barn 
belonging to the monks, which was filled with corn ; but, 
immediately becoming mad, he ran about the country 
in a distracted state, nor ceased raving until he was 
seized by his parents and bound. Having burst his 
bonds, and tired out his keepers, he came the next morn- 
ing to the gate of the monastery, incessantly howling 
out that he was inwardly burnt by the influence of the 
monks, and thus in a few days expired, uttering the most 
miserable complaints. It happened also, that a young 
man was struck by another in the guests' hall; but on 
the following day, by divine vengeance, the aggressor 
was, in the presence of the fraternity, killed by an enemy, 
and his lifeless body was laid out in the same spot in the 
hall where the sacred house had been violated. In our 
time too, in a period of scarcity, while great multitudes 
of poor were daily crowding before the gates for relief, 

1 The Cistercian monastery of Margam, justly celebrated for 
the extensive charities which its members exercised, was founded 
a.d. 1 147, by Robert earl of Gloucester, who died in the same 
year. Of this once-famed sanctuary nothing now remains but 
the shell of its chapter-house, which, by neglect, has lost its most 
ornamental parts. When Mr. Wyndham made the tour of Wales 
in the year 1777, this elegant building was entire, and was accu- 
rately drawn and engraved by his orders. 

Itinerary Through Wales 63 

by the unanimous consent of the brethren, a ship was 
sent to Bristol to purchase corn for charitable purposes. 
The vessel, delayed by contrary winds, and not return- 
ing (but rather affording an opportunity for the miracle), 
on the very day when there would have been a total 
deficiency of corn, both for the poor and the convent, 
a field near the monastery was found suddenly to ripen, 
more than a month before the usual time of harvest: 
thus, divine Providence supplied the brotherhood and 
the numerous poor with sufficient nourishment until 
autumn. By these and other signs of virtues, the place 
accepted by God began to be generally esteemed and 

It came to pass also in our days, during the period 
when the four sons of Caradoc son of Iestin, and nephews 
of prince Rhys by his sister, namely, Morgan, Meredyth, 
Owen, and Cadwallon, bore rule for their father in those 
parts, that Cadwallon, through inveterate malice, slew 
his brother Owen. But divine vengeance soon over- 
took him ; for on his making a hostile attack on a certain 
castle, he was crushed to pieces by the sudden fall of its 
walls : and thus, in the presence of a numerous body of 
his own and his brother's forces, suffered the punish- 
ment which his barbarous and unnatural conduct had so 
justly merited. 

Another circumstance which happened here deserves 
notice. A greyhound belonging to the aforesaid Owen, 
large, beautiful, and curiously spotted with a variety of 
colours, received seven wounds from arrows and lances, 
in the defence of his master, and on his part did much 
injury to the enemy and assassins. When his wounds 
were healed, he was sent to king Henry II. by William 
earl of Gloucester, in testimony of so great and extra- 
ordinary a deed. A dog, of all animals, is most attached 
to man, and most easily distinguishes him; sometimes, 
when deprived of his master, he refuses to live, and in 
his master's defence is bold enough to brave death; 
ready, therefore, to die, either with or for his master. 

6 4 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

I do not think it superfluous to insert here an example 
which Suetonius gives in his book on the nature of 
animals, and which Ambrosius also relates in his Ex- 
ameron. " A man, accompanied by a dog, was killed 
in a remote part of the city of Antioch, by a soldier, for 
the sake of plunder. The murderer, concealed by the 
darkness of the morning, escaped into another part of 
the city ; the corpse lay unburied ; a large concourse of 
people assembled; and the dog, with bitter howlings, 
lamented his master's fate. The murderer, by chance, 
passed that way, and, in order to prove his innocence, 
mingled with the crowd of spectators, and, as if moved by 
compassion, approached the body of the deceased. The 
dog, suspending for a while his moans, assumed the arms 
of revenge ; rushed upon the man, and seized him, howl- 
ing at the same time in so dolorous a manner, that all 
present shed tears. It was considered as a proof against 
the murderer, that the dog seized him from amongst so 
many, and would not let him go; and especially, as 
neither the crime of hatred, envy, or injury, could pos- 
sibly, in this case, be urged against the dog. On account, 
therefore, of such a strong suspicion of murder (which 
the soldier constantly denied), it was determined that 
the truth of the matter should be tried by combat. The 
parties being assembled in a field, with a crowd of people 
around, the dog on one side, and the soldier, armed with 
a stick of a cubit's length, on the other, the murderer 
was at length overcome by the victorious dog, and 
suffered an ignominious death on the common gallows. 

Pliny and Solinus relate that a certain king, who was 
very fond of dogs, and addicted to hunting, was taken 
and imprisoned by his enemies, and in a most wonderful 
manner liberated, without any assistance from his 
friends, by a pack of dogs, who had spontaneously 
sequestered themselves in the mountainous and woody 
regions, and from thence committed many atrocious 
acts of depredation on the neighbouring herds and flocks. 
I shall take this opportunity of mentioning what from 

Itinerary Through Wales 65 

experience and ocular testimony I have observed respect- 
ing the nature of dogs. A dog is in general sagacious, 
but particularly with respect to his master ; for when he 
has for some time lost him in a crowd, he depends more 
upon his nose than upon his eyes; and, in endeavouring 
to find him, he first looks about, and then applies his nose, 
for greater certainty, to his clothes, as if nature had 
placed all the powers of infallibility in that feature. The 
tongue of a dog possesses a medicinal quality ; the wolf's, 
on the contrary, a poisonous: the dog heals his wounds 
by licking them, the wolf, by a similar practice, infects 
them; and the dog, if he has received a wound in his 
neck or head, or any part of his body where he cannot 
apply his tongue, ingeniously makes use of his hinder 
foot as a conveyance of the healing qualities to the parts 



Continuing our journey, 1 not far from Margan, where 
the alternate vicissitudes of a sandy shore and the tide 
commence, we forded over the river Avon, having been 
considerably delayed by the ebbing of the sea; and under 
the guidance of Morgan, eldest son of Caradoc, proceeded 
along the sea-shore towards the river Neth, which, on 
account of its quicksands, is the most dangerous and in- 
accessible river in South Wales. A pack-horse belonging 
1 In continuing their journey from Neath to Swansea, our 
travellers directed their course by the sea-coast to the river Avon, 
which they forded, and, continuing their road along the sands, 
were probably ferried over the river Neath, at a place now known 
by the name of Breton Ferry, leaving the monastery of Neath at 
some distance to the right: from thence traversing another tract 
of sands, and crossing the river Tawe, they arrived at the castle 
of Swansea, where they passed the night. 


66 Giraldus Cambrensis 

to the author, which had proceeded by the lower way 
near the sea, although in the midst of many others, was 
the only one which sunk down into the abyss, but he was 
at last, with great difficulty, extricated, and not without 
some damage done to the baggage and books. Yet, al- 
though we had Morgan, the prince of that country, as 
our conductor, we did not reach the river without great 
peril, and some severe falls ; for the alarm occasioned by 
this unusual kind of road, made us hasten our steps over 
the quicksands, in opposition to the advice of our guide, 
and fear quickened our pace; whereas, through these 
difficult passages, as we there learned, the mode of pro- 
ceeding should be with moderate speed. But as the 
fords of that river experience a change by every monthly 
tide, and cannot be found after violent rains and floods, 
we did not attempt the ford, but passed the river in a 
boat, leaving the monastery of Neth x on our right hand, 
| approaching again to the district of St. David's, and 
leaving the diocese of Landaf (which we had entered at 
Abergevenny) behind us. 

It happened in our days that David II., bishop of St. 
David's, passing this way, and finding the ford agitated 
by a recent storm, a chaplain of those parts, named 
Rotherch Falcus, being conversant in the proper method 
. of crossing these rivers, undertook, at the desire of the 
i bishop, the dangerous task of trying the ford. Having 
mounted a large and powerful horse, which had been 

1 The monastery of Neath was situated on the banks of a river 
bearing the same name, about a mile to the westward of the town 
and castle. It was founded in 1112, by Richard de Grainville, 
or Greenefeld, and Constance, his wife, for the safety of the souls 
of Robert, earl of Gloucester, Maude, his wife, and William, his 
son. Richard de Grainville was one of the twelve Norman 
knights who accompanied Robert Fitz-Hamon, and assisted him 
in the conquest of Glamorganshire. In the time of Leland this 
abbey was in a high state of preservation, for he says, " Neth 
abbay of white monkes, a mile above Neth town, standing in the 
ripe of Neth, semid to me the fairest abbay of al Wales." Leland, 
Itin. torn. v. p. 14. The remains of the abbey and of the adjoin- 
ing priory-house are considerable; but this ancient retirement of 
the grey and white monks is now occupied by the inhabitants of 
the neighbouring copper-works. 

Itinerary Through Wales 67 

selected from the whole train for this purpose, he imme- 
diately crossed the ford, and fled with great rapidity to 
the neighbouring woods, nor could he be induced to 
return until the suspension which he had lately incurred 
was removed, and a full promise of security and in- 
demnity obtained; the horse was then restored to one 
party, and his service to the other. 

Entering the province called Goer, 1 we spent the night 
at the castle of Sweynsei, 2 which in Welsh is called Aber- 
tawe, or the fall of the river Tawe into the sea. The next 
morning, the people being assembled after mass, and 
many having been induced to take the cross, an aged 
man of that district, named Cador, thus addressed the 
archbishop: "My lord, if I now enjoyed my former 
strength, and the vigour of youth, no alms should 
ransom me, no desire of inactivity restrain me, from 
engaging in the laudable undertaking you preach; but 
since my weak age and the injuries of time deprive me 
of this desirable benefit (for approaching years bring 
with them many comforts, which those that are passed 
take away), if I cannot, owing to the infirmity of my 
body, attain a full merit, yet suffer me, by giving a tenth 
of all I possess, to attain a half." Then falling down at 
the feet of the archbishop, he deposited in his hands, for 

1 Gower, the western district of Glamorganshire, appears to 
have been first conquered by Henry de Newburg, earl of Warwick, 
soon after Robert, duke of Gloucester, had made the conquest of 
the other part of Glamorganshire. 

2 Sweynsei, Swansea, or Abertawe, situated at the confluence 
of the river Tawe with the Severn sea, is a town of considerable 
commerce, and much frequented during the summer months as a 
bathing-place. The old castle, now made use of as a prison, is so 
surrounded by houses in the middle of the town, that a stranger 
might visit Swansea without knowing that such a building existed. 
The Welsh Chronicle informs us, that it was built by Henry de 
Beaumont, earl of Warwick, and that in the year 1113 it was 
attacked by Gruffydd ap Rhys, but without success. This castle 
became afterwards a part of the possessions of the see of St. 
David's, and was rebuilt by bishop Gower. [The old castle is no 
longer used as a prison, but as the office of the " Cambria Daily 
Leader." It is significant that Swansea is still known to Welsh- 
men, as in the days of Giraldus, as " Abertawe."] 

68 Giraldus Cambrensis 

the service of the cross, the tenth of his estate, weeping 
bitterly, and intreating from him the remission of one 
half of the enjoined penance. After a short time he re- 
turned, and thus continued : " My lord, if the will directs 
the action, and is itself, for the most part, considered as 
the act, and as I have a full and firm inclination to under- 
take this journey, I request a remission of the remaining 
part of the penance, and in addition to my former gift, 
I will equal the sum from the residue of my tenths." 
The archbishop, smiling at his devout ingenuity, em- 
braced him with admiration. 

On the same night, two monks, who waited in the arch- 
bishop's chamber, conversing about the occurrences of 
their journey, and the dangers of the road, one of them 
said (alluding to the wildness of the country), " This is 
a hard province;" the other (alluding to the quick- 
sands), wittily replied, " Yet yesterday it was found too 

A short time before our days, a circumstance worthy 
of note occurred in these parts, which Elidorus, a priest, 
most strenuously affirmed had befallen himself. When 
a youth of twelve years, and learning his letters, since, 
as Solomon says, " The root of learning is bitter, although 
the fruit is sweet," in order to avoid the discipline and 
frequent stripes inflicted on him by his preceptor, he ran 
away, and concealed himself under the hollow bank of a 
river. After fasting in that situation for two days, two 
little men of pigmy stature appeared to him, saying, " If 
you will come with us, we will lead you into a country 
full of delights and sports." Assenting and rising up, 
he followed his guides through a path, at first subter- 
raneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, adorned 
with rivers and meadows, woods and plains, but obscure, 
and not illuminated with the full light of the sun. All 
the days were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark, on 
account of the absence of the moon and stars. The boy 
was brought before the king, and introduced to him in 
the presence of the court; who, having examined him 

Itinerary Through Wales 69 

for a long time, delivered him to his son, who was then a 
boy. These men were of the smallest stature, but very 
well proportioned in their make; they were all of a 
fair complexion, with luxuriant hair falling over their 
shoulders like that of women. They had horses and 
greyhounds adapted to their size. They neither ate 
flesh nor fish, but lived on milk diet, made up into messes 
with saffron. They never took an oath, for they detested 
nothing so much as lies. As often as they returned from 
our upper hemisphere, they reprobated our ambition, 
infidelities, and inconstancies; they had no form of 
public worship, being strict lovers and reverers, as it 
seemed, of truth. 

The boy frequently returned to our hemisphere, some- 
times by the way he had first gone, sometimes by 
another: at first in company with other persons, and 
afterwards alone, and made himself known only to his 
mother, declaring to her the manners, nature, and state 
of that people. Being desired by her to bring a present 
of gold, with which that region abounded, he stole, while 
at play with the king's son, the golden ball with which 
he used to divert himself, and brought it to his mother 
in great haste; and when he reached the door of his 
father's house, but not unpursued, and was entering it in 
a great hurry, his foot stumbled on the threshold, and 
falling down into the room where his mother was sitting, 
the two pigmies seized the ball which had dropped from 
his hand, and departed, shewing the boy every mark of 
contempt and derision. On recovering from his fall, con- 
founded with shame, and execrating the evil counsel of 
his mother, he returned by the usual track to the sub- 
terraneous road, but found no appearance of any passage, 
though he searched for it on the banks of the river for 
nearly the space of a year. But since those calamities 
are often alleviated by time, which reason cannot miti- 
gate, and length of time alone blunts the edge of our 
afflictions, and puts an end to many evils, the youth 
having been brought back by his friends and mother, and 

yo Giraldus Cambrensis 

restored to his right way of thinking, and to his learn- 
ing, in process of time attained the rank of priesthood. 
Whenever David II., bishop of St. David's, talked to him 
in his advanced state of life concerning this event, he 
could never relate the particulars without shedding 
tears. He had made himself acquainted with the lan- 
guage of that nation, the words of which, in his younger 
days, he used to recite, which, as the bishop often had 
informed me, were very conformable to the Greek idiom. 
When they asked for water, they said Ydor ydorum, 
which meant bring water, for Ydor in their language, as 
well as in the Greek, signifies water, from whence vessels 
for water are called i>Sxi; and Dur also, in the British 
language, signifies water. When they wanted salt they 
said, Halgein ydorum, bring salt: salt is called a A in 
Greek, and Halen in British, for that language, from the 
length of time which the Britons (then called Trojans, 
and afterwards Britons, from Brito, their leader) re- 
mained in Greece after the destruction of Troy, became, 
in many instances, similar to the Greek. 

It is remarkable that so many languages should corre- 
spond in one word, a\ in Greek, Halen in British, and 
Halgein in the Irish tongue, the g being inserted ; Sal in 
Latin, because, as Priscian says, " the s is placed in some 
words instead of an aspirate," as aA? in Greek is called 
Sal in Latin, l/xt semi 7rra septem Sel in French 
the a being changed into e Salt in English, by the 
addition of t to the Latin; Sout, in the Teutonic lan- 
guage : there are therefore seven or eight languages agree- 
ing in this one word. If a scrupulous inquirer should 
ask my opinion of the relation here inserted, I answer 
with Augustine, " that the divine miracles are to be ad- 
mired, not discussed." Nor do I, by denial, place 
bounds to the divine power, nor, by assent, insolently ex- 
tend what cannot be extended. But I always call to 
mind the saying of St. Jerome; " You will find," says he, 
" many things incredible and improbable, which never- 
theless are true ; for nature cannot in any respect prevail 

Itinerary Through Wales 71 

against the lord of nature." These things, therefore, 
and similar contingencies, I should place, according to 
the opinion of Augustine, among those particulars which 
are neither to be affirmed, nor too positively denied. 



Thence we proceeded towards the river Lochor, 1 through 
the plains in which Howel, son of Meredyth of Bre- 
cheinoc, after the decease of king Henry I., gained a 
signal victory over the English. Having first crossed 
the river Lochor, and afterwards the water called Wen- 
draeth, 2 we arrived at the castle of Cydweli. 3 In this 
district, after the death of king Henry, whilst Gruffydd 

1 Lochor, or Llwchwr, was the Leucarum mentioned in the 
Itineraries, and the fifth Roman station on the Via Julia. This 
small village is situated on a tide-river bearing the same name, 
which divides the counties of Glamorgan and Caermarthen, and 
over which there is a ferry. " Lochor river partith Kidwelli 
from West Gowerlande." Leland, Itin. torn. v. p. 23. [The 
ferry is no more. The river is crossed by a fine railway bridge.] 

2 Wendraeth, or Gwen-draeth, from gwen, white, and traeth, 
the sandy beach of the sea. There are two rivers of this name, 
Gwendraeth fawr, and Gwendraeth fychan, the great and the little 
G wendraeth, of which Leland thus speaks: " Vendraeth Vawr 
and Vendraith Vehan risith both in Eskenning commote : the lesse 
an eight milys of from Kydwelli; the other about a ten, and hath 
but a little nesche of sand betwixt the places wher thei go into the 
se, about a mile beneth the towne of Kidwely." 

3 Cydweli was probably so called from cyd, a junction, and wyl, 
a flow, or gushing out, being situated near the junction of the 
rivers Gwendraeth fawr and fychan; but Leland gives its name 
a very singular derivation, and worthy of our credulous and super- 
stitious author Giraldus. " Kidwely, otherwise Cathweli, i. e. 
Catti lectus, quia Cattus olim solebat ibi lectum in quercu facere: 
There is a little towne now but newly made betwene Vendraith 
Vawr and Vendraith Vehan. Vendraith Vawr is half a mile of." 
Leland. Itin. torn. v. p. 22. 

72 Giraldus Cambrensis 

son of Rhys, the prince of South Wales, was engaged in 
soliciting assistance from North Wales, his wife Gwen- 
liana (like the queen of the Amazons, and a second 
Penthesilea) led an army into these parts; but she was 
defeated by Maurice de Londres, lord of that country, 
and Geoffrey, the bishop's constable. 1 Morgan, one of 
her sons, whom she had arrogantly brought with her in 
that expedition, was slain, and the other, Malgo, taken 
prisoner; and she, with many of her followers, was put 
to death. During the reign of king Henry I., when 
Wales enjoyed a state of tranquillity, the abovementioned 
Maurice had a forest in that neighbourhood, well stocked 
with wild animals, and especially deer, and was extremely 
tenacious of his venison. His wife (for women are often 
very expert in deceiving men) made use of this curious 
stratagem. Her husband possessed, on the side of the 
wood next the sea, some extensive pastures, and large 
flocks of sheep. Having made all the shepherds and 
chief people in her house accomplices and favourers of 
her design, and taking advantage of the simple courtesy 
of her husband, she thus addressed him: " It is wonder- 
ful that being lord over beasts, you have ceased to exer- 
cise dominion over them ; and by not making use of your 
deer, do not now rule over them, but are subservient to 
them; and behold how great an abuse arises from too 
much patience; for they attack our sheep with such an 
unheard-of rage, and unusual voracity, that from many 
they are become few; from being innumerable, only 
numerous." To make her story more probable, she 
caused some wool to be inserted between the intestines 
of two stags which had been embowelled ; and her hus- 
band, thus artfully deceived, sacrificed his deer to the 
rapacity of his dogs. 

1 The scene of the battle fought between Gwenllian and Maurice 
de Londres is to this day called Maes Gwenllian, the plain or field 
of Gwenllian; and there is a tower in the castle of Cydweli still 
called Tyr Gwenllian. [Maes Gwenllian is now a small farm, one 
of whose fields is said to have been the scene of the battle.] 

Itinerary Through Wales 73 



Having crossed the river Tywy in a boat, we proceeded 
towards Caermardyn, leaving Lanstephan and Talachar l 
on the sea-coast to our left. After the death of king 
Henry II., Rhys, the son of Gruffydd, took these two 
castles by assault; then, having laid waste, by fire and 
sword, the provinces of Penbroch and Ros, he besieged 
Caermardyn, but failed in his attempt. Caermardyn 2 
signifies the city of Merlin, because, according to the 
British History, he was there said to have been begotten 
of an incubus. 

This ancient city is situated on the banks of the noble 
river Tywy, surrounded by woods and pastures, and was 
strongly inclosed with walls of brick, part of which are 
still standing; having Cantref Mawr, the great cantred, 
or hundred, on the eastern side, a safe refuge, in times of 
danger, to the inhabitants of South Wales, on account of 
its thick woods ; where is also the castle of Dinevor, 3 built 

1 The castle of Talachar is now better known by the name of 

2 Much has been said and written by ancient authors respecting 
the derivation of the name of this city, which is generally allowed 
to be the Muridunum, or Maridunum, mentioned in the Roman 
itineraries. Some derive it from Caer and Merddyn, that is, the 
city of the prophet Merddyn; and others from Miir and Murddyn, 
which in the British language signify a wall. There can, however, 
be little doubt that it is derived simply from the Roman name 
Muridunum. The county gaol occupies the site of the old castle, 
a few fragments of which are seen intermixed with the houses of 
the town. 

3 Dinevor, the great castle, from dinas, a castle, and vawr, great, 
was in ancient times a royal residence of the princes of South 
Wales. In the year 876, Roderic the Great, having divided the 
principalities of North and South Wales, and Powvs land, amongst 
his three sons, built for each of them a palace. The sovereignty 

74 Giraldus Cambrensis 

on a lofty summit above the Tywy, the royal seat of the 
princes of South Wales. In ancient times, there were 
three regal palaces in Wales: Dinevor in South Wales, 
Aberfrau in North Wales, situated in Anglesea, and 
Pengwern in Powys, now called Shrewsbury (Slopes- 
buria) ; Pengwern signifies the head of a grove of alders. 
Recalling to mind those poetical passages : 

" Dolus an virtus quis in hoste requirat? " 


" Et si non recte possis quocunque modo rem," 

my pen shrinks with abhorrence from the relation of the 
enormous vengeance exercised by the court against its 
vassals, within the comot of Caeo, in the Cantref Mawr. 
Near Dinevor, on the other side of the river Tywy, in the 
Cantref Bychan, or the little cantred, there is a spring 
which, like the tide, ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four 
hours. 1 Not far to the north of Caermardyn, namely 
at Pencadair, 2 that is, the head of the chair, when Rhys, 
the son of Gruffydd, was more by stratagem than force 
compelled to surrender, and was carried away into Eng- 
land, king Henry II. despatched a knight, born in 
Britany, on whose wisdom and fidelity he could rely, 
under the conduct of Guaidanus, dean of Cantref Mawr, 
to explore the situation of Dinevor castle, and the 
strength of the country. The priest, being desired to 
take the knight by the easiest and best road to the castle, 
led him purposely aside by the most difficult and in- 
accessible paths, and wherever they passed through 
woods, the priest, to the general surprise of all present, 
fed upon grass, asserting that, in times of need, the 

of South Wales, with the castle of Dinevor, fell to the lot of Cadell. 
[The ruins of Dinevor Castle still crown the summit of the hill 
which overshadows the town of Llandilo, 12 miles from Car- 

1 There is a spring very near the north side of Dinevor park 
wall, which bears the name of Nant-y-rhibo, or the bewitched 
brook, which may, perhaps, be the one here alluded to by Giraldus. 

2 Pencadair is a small village situated to the north of Car- 

Itinerary Through Wales j$ 

inhabitants of that country were accustomed to live upon 
herbs and roots. The knight returning to the king, and 
relating what had happened, affirmed that the country 
was uninhabitable, vile, and inaccessible, and only afford- 
ing food to a beastly nation, living like brutes. At 
length the king released Rhys, having first bound him to 
fealty by solemn oaths and the delivery of hostages. 

On our journey from Caermardyn towards the Cister- 
cian monastery called Alba Domus, 1 the archbishop was 
informed of the murder of a young Welshman, who was 
devoutly hastening to meet him ; when turning out of the 
road, he ordered the corpse to be covered with the cloak 
of his almoner, and with a pious supplication commended 
the soul of the murdered youth to heaven. Twelve 
archers of the adjacent castle of St. Clare, 2 who had 
assassinated the young man, were on the following day 

1 Alba Domus was called in Welsh Ty Gwyn ar Daf, or the 
White House on the river Taf. In the history of the primitive 
British church, Ty Gwyn, or white house, is used in a sense equi- 
valent to a chapter-house. The White House College, or Bangor 
y Ty Gwyn, is pretended to have been founded about 480, by 
Paul Hen, or Paulinus, a saint of the congregation of Illtyd. 
From this origin, the celebrated Cistercian monastery is said to 
have derived its establishment. Powel, in his chronicle, says, 
" For the first abbey or frier house that we read of in Wales, sith 
the destruction of the noble house of Bangor, which savoured not 
of Romish dregges, was the Tuy Gwyn, built the yeare n 46, and 
after they swarmed like bees through all the countrie." (Powel, 
p. 254.) Authors differ with respect to the founder of this abbey; 
some have attributed it to Rhys ap Tewdwr, prince of South 
Wales; and others to Bernard, bishop of Saint David's, who died 
about the year 1148. The latter account is corroborated by the 
following passage in Wharton's Anglia Sacra: " Anno 1143 ducti 
sunt monachi ordinis Cisterciensis qui modo sunt apud Albam 
Landam, in West Walliam, per Bernardum episcopum." Leland, 
in his Collectanea, says, " Whitland, abbat. Cistert., Rhesus 
filius Theodori princeps Suth Wallia? primus fundator; " and in 
his Itinerary, mentions it as a convent of Bernardynes, " which 
yet stondeth." 

8 Saint Clears is a long, straggling village, at the junction of the 
river Cathgenny with the Taf. Immediately on the banks of the 
former, and not far from its junction with the latter, stood the 
castle, of which not one stone is left; but the artificial tumulus 
on which the citadel was placed, and other broken ground, mark 
its ancient site. 

y6 Giraldus Cambrensis 

signed with the cross at Alba Domus, as a punishment 
for their crime. Having traversed three rivers, the Taf, 
then the Cleddeu, under Lanwadein, 1 and afterwards 
another branch of the same river, we at length arrived at 
Haverford. This province, from its situation between 
two rivers, has acquired the name of Daugleddeu, 2 being 
enclosed and terminated, as it were, by two swords, for 
cleddue, in the British language, signifies a sword. 



A sermon having been delivered at Haverford 3 by the 
archbishop, and the word of God preached to the people 
by the archdeacon, whose name appears on the title-page 
of this work, many soldiers and plebeians were induced 
to take the cross. It appeared wonderful and miracu- 
lous, that, although the archdeacon addressed them both 
in the Latin and French tongues, those persons who 
understood neither of those languages were equally 
affected, and flocked in great numbers to the cross. 

An old woman of those parts, who for three preceding 
years had been blind, having heard of the archbishop's 
arrival, sent her son to the place where the sermon was to 
be preached, that he might bring back to her some 

1 Lanwadein, now called Lawhaden, is a small village about 
four miles from Narberth, on the banks of the river Cleddeu. 

2 Daugleddeu, so called from Dau, two, and Cled, or Cleddau, a 
sword. The rivers Cledheu have their source in the Prescelly 
mountain, unite their streams below Haverfordwest, and run into 
Milford Haven, which in Welsh is called Aberdaugleddau, or the 
confluence of the two rivers Cledheu. 

3 Haverford, now called Haverfordwest, is a considerable town 
on the river Cledheu, with an ancient castle, three churches, and 
some monastic remains. The old castle (now used as the county- 
gaol), from its size and commanding situation, adds greatly to 
the picturesque appearance of this town. [The old castle is no 
longer used as a gaol.] 

Itinerary Through Wales yy 

particle, if only of the fringe of his garment. The young 
man being prevented by the crowd from approaching 
the archbishop, waited till the assembly was dispersed, 
and then carried a piece of the earth on which the 
preacher had stood. The mother received the gift with 
great joy, and falling immediately on her knees, applied 
the turf to her mouth and eyes; and thus, through the 
merits of the holy man, and her own faith and devotion, 
recovered the blessing of sight, which she had entirely 

The inhabitants of this province derived their origin 
from Flanders, and were sent by king Henry I. to inhabit 
these districts; a people brave and robust, ever most 
hostile to the Welsh; a people, I say, well versed in 
commerce and woollen manufactories ; a people anxious 
to seek gain by sea or land, in defiance of fatigue and 
danger; a hardy race, equally fitted for the plough or the 
sword ; a people brave and happy, if Wales (as it ought 
to have been) had been dear to its sovereign, and had not 
so frequently experienced the vindictive resentment and 
ill-treatment of its governors. 

A circumstance happened in the castle of Haverford 
during our time, which ought not to be omitted. A 
famous robber was fettered and confined in one of its 
towers, and was often visited by three boys, the son of 
the earl of Clare, and two others, one of whom was son of 
the lord of the castle, and the other his grandson, sent 
thither for their education, and who applied to him for 
arrows, with which he used to supply them. One day, at 
the request of the children, the robber, being brought 
from his dungeon, took advantage of the absence of the 
gaoler, closed the door, and shut himself up with the 
boys. A great clamour instantly arose, as well from the 
boys within, as from the people without; nor did he 
cease, with an uplifted axe, to threaten the lives of the 
children, until indemnity and security were assured to 
him in the most ample manner. A similar accident 
happened at Chateau-roux in France. The lord of that 

78 Giraldus Cambrensis 

place maintained in the castle a man whose eyes he had 
formerly put out, but who, by long habit, recollected 
the ways of the castle, and the steps leading to the 
towers. Seizing an opportunity of revenge, and meditat- 
ing the destruction of the youth, he fastened the inward 
doors of the castle, and took the only son and heir of the 
governor of the castle to the summit of a high tower, 
from whence he was seen with the utmost concern by the 
people beneath. The father of the boy hastened thither, 
and, struck with terror, attempted by every possible 
means to procure the ransom of his son, but received for 
answer, that this could not be effected, but by the same 
mutilation of those lower parts, which he had likewise 
inflicted on him. The father, having in vain entreated 
mercy, at length assented, and caused a violent blow to 
be struck on his body ; and the people around him cried 
out lamentably, as if he had suffered mutilation. The 
blind man asked him where he felt the greatest pain? 
when he replied in his reins, he declared it was false and 
prepared to precipitate the boy. A second blow was 
given, and the lord of the castle asserting that the 
greatest pains were at his heart, the blind man expressing 
his disbelief, again carried the boy to the summit of the 
tower. The third time, however, the father, to save his 
son, really mutilated himself; and when he exclaimed 
that the greatest pain was in his teeth; " It is true," said 
he, "as a man who has had experience should be believed, 
and thou hast in part revenged my injuries. I shall meet 
death with more satisfaction, and thou shalt neither 
beget any other son, nor receive comfort from this." 
Then, precipitating himself and the boy from the summit 
of the tower, their limbs were broken, and both instantly 
expired. The knight ordered a monastery to be built 
on the spot for the soul of the boy, which is still extant, 
and called De Doloribus. 

It appears remarkable to me that the entire inherit- 
ance should devolve on Richard, son of Tankard, 
governor of the aforesaid castle of Haverford, being the 

Itinerary Through Wales 79 

youngest son, and having many brothers of distinguished 
character who died before him. In like manner the 
dominion of South Wales descended to Rhys son of 
Gruff yd, owing to the death of several of his brothers. 
During the childhood of Richard, a holy man, named 
Caradoc, led a pious and recluse life at St. Ismael, in the 
province of Ros, 1 to whom the boy was often sent by his 
parents with provisions, and he so ingratiated himself in 
the eyes of the good man, that he very often promised 
him, together with his blessing, the portion of all his 
brothers, and the paternal inheritance. It happened 
that Richard, being overtaken by a violent storm of 
rain, turned aside to the hermit's cell; and being unable 
to get his hounds near him, either by calling, coaxing, 
or by offering them food, the holy man smiled; and 
making a gentle motion with his hand, brought them all 
to him immediately. In process of time, when Caradoc 2 

1 The province of Rhos, in which the town of Haverfordwest is 
situated, was peopled by a colony of Flemings during the reign of 
king Henry I. 

2 St. Caradoc was born of a good family in Brecknockshire, and 
after a liberal education at home, attached himself to the court of 
Rhys prince of South Wales, whom he served a long time with 
diligence and fidelity. He was much esteemed and beloved by 
him, till having unfortunately lost two favourite greyhounds, 
which had been committed to his care, that prince, in a fury, 
threatened his life, upon which Caradoc determined to change 
masters, and made a vow on the spot to consecrate the remainder 
of his days to God, by a single and religious life. He went to 
Llandaff, received from its bishop the clerical tonsure and habit, 
and retired to the deserted church of St. Kined, and afterwards 
to a still more solitary abode in the Isle of Ary, from whence he 
was taken prisoner by some Norwegian pirates, but soon released. 
His last place of residence was at St. Ismael, in the province of 
Rhos, where he died in it 24, and was buried with great honour in 
the cathedral of St. David's. We must not confound this retreat 
of Caradoc with the village of St. Ismael on the borders of Milford 
Haven. His hermitage was situated in the parish of Harold- 
stone, near the town of Haverfordwest, whose church has St. 
Ismael for its patron, and probably near a place called Poorfield, 
the common on which Haverfordwest races are held, as there is a 
well there called Caradoc's Well, round which, till within these 
few years, there was a sort of vanity fair, where cakes were sold, 
and country games celebrated. [Caradoc was canonised by Pope 
Innocent III. at the instance of Giraldus.] 

80 Giraldus Cambrensis 

had happily completed the course of his existence, 
Tankard, father of Richard, violently detained his body, 
which by his last will he had bequeathed to the church 
of St. David; but being suddenly seized with a severe 
illness, he revoked his command. When this had 
happened to him a second and a third time, and the 
corpse at last was suffered to be conveyed away, and was 
proceeding over the sands of Niwegal towards St. 
David's, a prodigious fall of rain inundated the whole 
country; but the conductors of the sacred burthen, on 
coming forth from their shelter, found the silken pall, 
with which the bier was covered, dry and uninjured by 
the storm; and thus the miraculous body of Caradoc 
was brought into the church of St. Andrew and St. 
David, and with due solemnity deposited in the left 
aisle, near the altar of the holy proto-martyr Stephen. 

It is worthy of remark, that these people (the Flem- 
ings), from the inspection of the right shoulders of rams, 
which have been stripped of their flesh, and not roasted, 
but boiled, can discover future events, or those which 
have passed and remained long unknown. 1 They know, 
also, what is transpiring at a distant place, by a wonder- 
ful art, and a prophetic kind of spirit. They declare, 
also, by means of signs, the undoubted symptoms of 
approaching peace and war, murders and fires, domestic 
adulteries, the state of the king, his life and death. It 
happened in our time, that a man of those parts, whose 
name was William Mangunel, a person of high rank, and 
excelling all others in the aforesaid art, had a wife big 
with child by her own husband's grandson. Well aware 
of the fact, he ordered a ram from his own flock to be 
sent to his wife, as a present from her neighbour, which 
was carried to the cook, and dressed. At dinner, the 

1 This curious superstition is still preserved, in a debased form, 
among the descendants of the Flemish population of this district, 
where the young women practise a sort of divination with the 
bladebone of a shoulder of mutton to discover who will be their 
sweetheart. It is still more curious that William de Rubruquis, 
in the thirteenth century, found the same superstition existing 
among the Tartars. 

Itinerary Through Wales 8 I 

husband purposely gave the shoulder-bone of the ram, 
properly cleaned, to his wife, who was also well skilled in 
this art, for her examination; when, having for a short 
time examined the secret marks, she smiled, and threw 
the oracle down on the table. Her husband, dissembling, 
earnestly demanded the cause of her smiling, and the 
explanation of the matter. Overcome by his entreaties, 
she answered : " The man to whose fold this ram belongs, 
has an adulterous wife, at this time pregnant by the com- 
mission of incest with his own grandson." The husband, 
with a sorrowful and dejected countenance, replied: 
" You deliver, indeed, an oracle supported by too much 
truth, which I have so much more reason to lament, as 
the ignominy you have published redounds to my own 
injury." The woman, thus detected, and unable to dis- 
semble her confusion, betrayed the inward feelings of her 
mind by external signs; shame and sorrow urging her 
by turns, and manifesting themselves, now by blushes, 
now by paleness, and lastly (according to the custom of 
women), by tears. The shoulder of a goat was also once 
brought to a certain person, instead of a ram's both 
being alike, when cleaned; who, observing for a short 
time the lines and marks, exclaimed, " Unhappy cattle, 
that never was multiplied ! unhappy, likewise, the owner 
of the cattle, who never had more than three or four in 
one flock ! " Many persons, a year and a half before 
the event, foresaw, by the means of shoulder-bones, the 
destruction of their country, after the decease of king 
Henry I., and, selling all their possessions, left their 
homes, and escaped the impending ruin. 

It happened also in Flanders, from whence this people 
came, that a certain man sent a similar bone to a neigh- 
bour for his inspection; and the person who carried it, 
on passing over a ditch, broke wind, and wished it in the 
nostrils of the man on whose account he was thus troubled. 
The person to whom the bone was taken, on examination, 
said, " May you have in your own nose, that which you 
wished to be in mine." In our time, a soothsayer, on 


82 Giraldus Cambrensis 

the inspection of a bone, discovered not only a theft, and 
the manner of it, but the thief himself, and all the 
attendant circumstances ; he heard also the striking of a 
bell, and the sound of a trumpet, as if those things which 
were past were still performing. It is wonderful, there- 
fore, that these bones, like all unlawful conjurations, 
should represent, by a counterfeit similitude to the eyes 
and ears, things which are passed, as well as those which 
are now going on. 



The province of Penbroch adjoins the southern part of 
the territory of Ros, and is separated from it by an arm 
of the sea. Its principal city, and the metropolis of 
Demetia, is situated on an oblong rocky eminence, ex- 
tending with two branches from Milford Haven, from 
whence it derived the name of Penbroch, which signifies 
the head of the sestuary. Arnulph de Montgomery, 1 
in the reign of king Henry I., erected here a slender 
fortress with stakes and turf, which, on returning to 
England, he consigned to the care of Giraldus de 
Windesor, 2 his constable and lieutenant-general, a 

1 Arnulph, younger son of Roger de Montgomery, did his 
homage for Dyved, and is said, by our author, to have first erected 
a slender fortress with stakes and turf at Pembroke, in the reign 
of king Henry I., which, however, appears to have been so strong 
as to have resisted the hostile attack of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn in 
1092, and of several lords of North Wales, in 1094. 

2 Walter Fitz-Other, at the time of the general survey of Eng- 
land by William the Conqueror, was castellan of Windsor, warden 
of the forests in Berkshire, and possessed several lordships in the 
counties of Middlesex, Hampshire, and Buckinghamshire, which 
dominus Otherus is said to have held in the time of Edward the 
Confessor. William, the eldest son of Walter, took the surname 
of Windsor from his father's office, and was ancestor to the lords 

Itinerary Through Wales 83 

worthy and discreet man. Immediately on the death 
of Rhys son of Tewdwr, who a short time before had 
been slain by the treachery of his own troops at Brechei- 
noc, leaving his son, Gruffydd, a child, the inhabitants 
of South Wales besieged the castle. One night, when 
fifteen soldiers had deserted, and endeavoured to escape 
from the castle in a small boat, on the following morning 
Giraldus invested their armour bearers with the arms 
and estates of their masters, and decorated them with 
the military order. The garrison being, from the length 
of the siege, reduced to the utmost want of provisions, 
the constable, with great prudence and nattering hopes 
of success, caused four hogs, which yet remained, to be 
cut into small pieces and thrown down to the enemy 
from the fortifications. The next day, having again 
recourse to a more refined stratagem, he contrived that 
a letter, sealed with his own signet, should be found 
before the house of Wilfred, 1 bishop of St. David's, who 
was then by chance in that neighbourhood, as if acci- 
dentally dropped, stating that there would be no neces- 
sity of soliciting the assistance of earl Arnulph for the 
next four months to come. The contents of these letters 
being made known to the army, the troops abandoned 
the siege of the castle, and retired to their own homes. 
Giraldus, in order to make himself and his dependents 
more secure, married Nest, the sister of Gruffydd, prince 
of South Wales, by whom he had an illustrious progeny 
of both sexes; and by whose means both the maritime 
parts of South Wales were retained by the English, and 
the walls of Ireland afterwards stormed, as our Vaticinal 
History declares. 

Windsor, who have since been created earls of Plymouth: and 
from Gerald, brother of William, the Geralds, Fitz-geralds, and 
many other families are lineally descended. The Gerald here 
mentioned by Giraldus is sometimes surnamed De Windsor, and 
also Fitz- Walter, i.e. the son of Walter; having slain Owen, son 
of Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, chief lord of Cardiganshire, he was made 
president of the county of Pembroke. 

1 Wilfred is mentioned by Browne Willis in his list of bishops of 
St. David's, as the forty-seventh, under the title of Wilfride, or 
Griffin: he died about the vear 1116. 

8 4 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

In our time, a person residing at the castle of Pen- 
broch, found a brood of young weasels concealed within 
a fleece in his dwelling house, which he carefully removed 
and hid. The mother, irritated at the loss of her young, 
which she had searched for in vain, went to a vessel of 
milk that had been set aside for the use of the master's 
son, and raising herself up, polluted it with her deadly 
poison ; thus revenging, as it were, the loss of her young, 
by the destruction of the child. The man, observing 
what passed, carried the fleece back to its former place ; 
when the weasel, agitated by maternal solicitude, be- 
tween hope and fear, on finding again her young, began 
to testify her joy by her cries and actions, and returning 
quickly to the vessel, overthrew it; thus, in gratitude 
for the recovery of her own offspring, saving that of her 
host from danger. 

In another place, an animal of the same species 
had brought out her young into a plain for the enjoy- 
ment of the sun and air; when an insidious kite carried 
off one of them. Concealing herself with the remainder 
behind some shrubs, grief suggested to her a stratagem 
of exquisite revenge; she extended herself on a heap 
of earth, as if dead, within sight of the plunderer, 
and (as success always increases avidity) the bird 
immediately seized her and flew away, but soon fell 
down dead by the bite of the poisonous animal. 

The castle called Maenor Pyrr, 1 that is, the mansion of 

1 Maenor Pyrr, now known by the name of Manorbeer, is a 
small village on the sea coast, between Tenby and Pembroke, with 
the remaining shell of a large castle. Our author has given a far- 
fetched etymology to this castle and the adjoining island, in call- 
ing them the mansion and island of Pyrrhus: a much more 
natural and congenial conjecture may be made in supposing 
Maenor Pyrr to be derived from Maenor, a Manor, and Pyrr the 
plural of Por, a lord; i.e. the Manor of the lords, and, conse- 
quently, Inys Pyrr, the Island of the lords. As no mention what- 
ever is made of this castle in the Welsh Chronicle, I am inclined 
to think it was only a castellated mansion, and therefore considered 
of no military importance in those days of continued warfare 
throughout Wales. It is one of the most interesting spots in our 
author's Itinerary, for it was the property of the Barri family, 
and the birth-place of Giraldus; in the parish church, the sepul- 

Itinerary Through Wales 85 

Pyrrus, who also possessed the island of Chaldey, which 
the Welsh call Inys Pyrr, or the island of Pyrrus, is 
distant about three miles from Penbroch. It is excel- 
lently well defended by turrets and bulwarks, and is 
situated on the summit of a hill extending on the western 
side towards the sea-port, having on the northern and 
southern sides a fine fish-pond under its walls, as con- 
spicuous for its grand appearance, as for the depth of 
its waters, and a beautiful orchard on the same side, 
inclosed on one part by a vineyard, and on the other by 
a wood, remarkable for the projection of its rocks, and 
the height of its hazel trees. On the right hand of the 
promontory, between the castle and the church, near 
the site of a very large lake and mill, a rivulet of never- 
failing water flows through a valley, rendered sandy 
by the violence of the winds. Towards the west, the 
Severn sea, bending its course to Ireland, enters a hollow 
bay at some distance from the castle; and the southern 
rocks, if extended a little further towards the north, 
would render it a most excellent harbour for shipping. 
From this point of sight, you will see almost all the ships 
from Great Britain, which the east wind drives upon 
the Irish coast, daringly brave the inconstant waves and 
raging sea. This country is well supplied with corn, 
sea-fish, and imported wines ; and what is preferable to 
every other advantage, from its vicinity to Ireland, it is 
tempered by a salubrious air. Demetia, therefore, with 
its seven cantreds, is the most beautiful, as well as the 
most powerful district of Wales; Penbroch, the finest 
part of the province of Demetia; and the place I have 
just described, the most delightful part of Penbroch. 
It is evident, therefore, that Maenor Pirr is the pleasantest 
spot in Wales; and the author may be pardoned for 
having thus extolled his native soil, his genial territory, 
with a profusion of praise and admiration. 

chral effigy of a near relation, perhaps a brother, is still extant, in 
good preservation. Our author has evidently made a digression 
in order to describe this place. 

86 Giraldus Cambrensis 

In this part of Penbroch, unclean spirits have con- 
versed, not visibly, but sensibly, with mankind ; first in 
the house of Stephen Wiriet, 1 and afterwards in the 
house of William Not; 2 manifesting their presence by 
throwing dirt at them, and more with a view of mockery 
than of injury. In the house of William, they cut holes 
in the linen and woollen garments, much to the loss of 
the owner of the house and his guests; nor could any 
precaution, or even bolts, secure them from these incon- 
veniences. In the house of Stephen, the spirit in a more 
extraordinary manner conversed with men, and, in 
reply to their taunts, upbraided them openly with every- 
thing they had done from their birth, and which they 
were not willing should be known or heard by others. 
I do not presume to assign the cause of this event, except 
that it is said to be the presage of a sudden change from 
poverty to riches, or rather from affluence to poverty 
and distress; as it was found to be the case in both 
these instances. And it appears to me very extra- 
ordinary that these places could not be purified from 
such illusions, either by the sprinkling of holy water, or 
the assistance of any other religious ceremony; for the 
priests themselves, though protected by the crucifix, or 
the holy water, on devoutly entering the house, were 
equally subject to the same insults. From whence it 
appears that things pertaining to the sacraments, as 
well as the sacraments themselves, defend us from hurt- 
ful, but not from harmless things; from annoyances, 
but not from illusions. It is worthy of note, that in our 
time, a woman in Poitou was possessed by a demon, who, 
through her mouth, artfully and acutely disputed with 
the learned. He sometimes upbraided people with 

1 The house of Stephen Wiriet was, I presume, Orielton. There 
is a monument in the church of St. Nicholas, at Pembroke, to the 
memory of John, son and heir of Sir Hugh Owen, of Bodeon in 
Anglesea, knight, and Elizabeth, daughter and heir of George 
Wiriet, of Orielton, a.d. 1612. 

2 The family name of Not, or Nott, still exists in Pembroke- 
shire. [The descendants of Sir Hugh continued to live at Orielton, 
and the title is still in existence.] 

Itinerary Through Wales 87 

their secret actions, and those things which they wished 
not to hear; but when either the books of the gospel, or 
the relics of saints, were placed upon the mouth of the 
possessed, he fled to the lower part of her throat; and 
when they were removed thither, he descended into her 
belly. His appearance was indicated by certain in- 
flations and convulsions of the parts which he possessed, 
and when the relics were again placed in the lower 
parts, he directly returned to the upper. At length, 
when they brought the body of Christ, and gave it to 
the patient, the demon answered, " Ye fools, you are 
doing nothing, for what you give her is not the food of 
the body, but of the soul; and my power is confined to 
the body, not to the soul." But when those persons 
whom he had upbraided with their more serious actions, 
had confessed, and returned from penance, he reproached 
them no more. " I have known, indeed," says he, " I 
have known but now I know not, (he spake this as it 
were a reproach to others), and I hold my tongue, for 
what I know, I know not." From which it appears, 
that after confession and penance, the demons either 
do not know the sins of men, or do not know them to 
their injury and disgrace; because, as Augustine says, 
"If man conceals, God discovers; if man discovers, 
God conceals." 

Some people are surprised that lightning often strikes 
our places of worship, and damages the crosses and 
images of him who was crucified, before the eyes of one 
who seeth all things, and permits these circumstances 
to happen ; to whom I shall only answer with Ovid, 

" Summa petit livor, perflant altissima venti, 
Summa petunt dextra fulmina missa Jovis." 

On the same subject, Peter Abelard, in the presence of 
Philip king of France, is said to have answered a Jew, 
who urged these and similar things against the faith. 
" It is true that the lightning descending from on high, 
directs itself most commonly to the highest object on 

88 Giraldus Cambrensis 

earth, and to those most resembling its own nature; it 
never, therefore, injures your synagogues, because no 
man ever saw or heard of its falling upon a privy." An 
event worthy of note, happened in our time in France. 
During a contention between some monks of the Cister- 
cian order, and a certain knight, about the limits of their 
fields and lands, a violent tempest, in one night, utterly 
destroyed and ruined the cultivated grounds of the 
monks, while the adjoining territory of the knight 
remained undamaged. On which occasion he insolently 
inveighed against the fraternity, and publicly asserted 
that divine vengeance had thus punished them for un- 
lawfully keeping possession of his land; to which the 
abbot wittily replied, " It is by no means so; but that 
the knight had more friends in that riding than the 
monastery; " and he clearly demonstrated that, on the 
other hand, the monks had more enemies in it. 

In the province of Penbroch, another instance occurred, 
about the same time, of a spirit's appearing in the house 
of Elidore de Stakepole, 1 not only sensibly, but visibly, 
under the form of a red-haired young man, who called 
himself Simon. First seizing the keys from the person 
to whom they were entrusted, he impudently assumed 
the steward's office, which he managed so prudently and 
providently, that all things seemed to abound under his 
care, and there was no deficiency in the house. What- 
ever the master or mistress secretly thought of having 
for their daily use or provision, he procured with wonder- 
ful agility, and without any previous directions, saying, 
" You wished that to be done, and it shall be done for 
you." He was also well acquainted with their treasures 
and secret hoards, and sometimes upbraided them on 
that account; for as often as they seemed to act sparingly 

1 There are two churches in Pembrokeshire called Stackpoole, 
one of which, called Stackpoole Elidor, derived its name probably 
from the Elidore de Stakepole mentioned in this chapter by 
Giraldus. It contains several ancient monuments, and amongst 
them the effigies of a cross-legged knight, which has been for many 
years attributed to the aforesaid Elidore. 

Itinerary Through Wales 89 

and avariciously, he used to say, " Why are you afraid 
to spend that heap of gold or silver, since your lives are 
of so short duration, and the money you so cautiously 
hoard up will never do you any service? " He gave the 
choicest meat and drink to the rustics and hired servants, 
saying that " Those persons should be abundantlv sup- 
plied, by whose labours they were acquired." What- 
ever he determined should be done, whether pleasing or 
displeasing to his master or mistress (for, as we have said 
before, he knew all their secrets), he completed in his 
usual expeditious manner, without their consent. He 
never went to church, or uttered one Catholic word. He 
did not sleep in the house, but was ready at his office in 
the morning. 

He was at length observed by some of the family to 
hold his nightly converse near a mill and a pool of 
water; upon which discovery he was summoned the 
next morning before the master of the house and his 
lady, and, receiving his discharge, delivered up the keys, 
which he had held for upwards of forty days. Being 
earnestly interrogated, at his departure, who he was? 
he answered, " That he was begotten upon the wife of a 
rustic in that parish, by a demon, in the shape of her 
husband, naming the man, and his father-in-law, then 
dead, and his mother, still alive ; the truth of which the 
woman, upon examination, openly avowed. A similar 
circumstance happened in our time in Denmark. A 
certain unknown priest paid court to the archbishop, 
and, from his obsequious behaviour and discreet conduct, 
his general knowledge of letters and quick memory, soon 
contracted a great familiarity with him. Conversing 
one day with the archbishop about ancient histories and 
unknown events, on which topic he most frequently 
heard him with pleasure, it happened that when the 
subject of their discourse was the incarnation of our 
Lord, he said, amongst other things, " Before Christ 
assumed human nature, the demons had great power over 
mankind, which, at his coming, was much diminished; 

90 Giraldus Cambrensis 

insomuch that they were dispersed on every side, and 
fled from his presence. Some precipitated themselves 
into the sea, others into the hollow parts of trees, or the 
clefts of rocks; and I myself leaped into a well; " on 
which he blushed for shame, and took his departure. 
The archbishop, and those who were with him, being 
greatly astonished at that speech, began to ask questions 
by turns, and form conjectures ; and having waited some 
time (for he was expected to return soon), the arch- 
bishop ordered some of his attendants to call him, but he 
was sought for in vain, and never re-appeared. Soon 
afterwards, two priests, whom the archbishop had sent 
to Rome, returned ; and when this event was related to 
them, they began to inquire the day and hour on which 
the circumstance had happened? On being told it, 
they declared that on the very same day and hour he had 
met them on the Alps, saying, that he had been sent to 
the court of Rome, on account of some business of his 
master's (meaning the archbishop), which had lately 
occurred. And thus it was proved, that a demon had 
deluded them under a human form. 

I ought not to omit mentioning the falcons of these 
parts, which are large, and of a generous kind, and 
exercise a most severe tyranny over the river and land 
birds. King Henry II. remained here some time, making 
preparations for his voyage to Ireland; and being de- 
sirous of taking the diversion of hawking, he accidentally 
saw a noble falcon perched upon a rock. Going side- 
ways round him, he let loose a fine Norway hawk, which 
he carried on his left hand. The falcon, though at first 
slower in its flight, soaring up to a great height, burning 
with resentment, and in his turn becoming the aggressor, 
rushed down upon his adversary with the greatest im- 
petuosity, and by a violent blow struck the hawk dead 
at the feet of the king. From that time the king sent 
every year, about the breeding season, for the falcons 1 of 

1 Ramsey Island, near St. David's, was always famous for its 
breed of falcons. 

Itinerary Through Wales 91 

this country, which are produced on the sea cliffs; nor 
can better be found in any part of his dominions. But 
let us now return to our Itinerary. 



From Haverford we proceeded on our journey to Mene- 
via, distant from thence about twelve miles, and passed 
through Camros, 1 where, in the reign of king Stephen, the 
relations and friends of a distinguished young man, 
Giraldus, son of William, revenged his death by a too 
severe retaliation on the men of Ros. We then passed 
over Niwegal sands, at which place (during the winter 
that king Henry II. spent in Ireland), as well as in almost 
all the other western ports, a very remarkable circum- 
stance occurred. The sandy shores of South Wales, being 
laid bare by the extraordinary violence of a storm, the 
surface of the earth,which had been covered for many ages, 
re-appeared, and discovered the trunks of trees cut off, 
standing in the very sea itself, the strokes of the hatchet 
appearing as if made only yesterday. 2 The soil was very 
black, and the wood like ebony. By a wonderful revolu- 
tion, the road for ships became impassable, and looked, 
not like a shore, but like a grove cut down, perhaps, at 

1 Camros, a small village, containing nothing worthy of re- 
mark, excepting a large tumulus. It appears, by this route of the 
Crusaders, that the ancient road to Menevia, or St. David's, led 
through Camros, whereas the present turnpike road lies a mile 
and a half to the left of it. It then descends to Niwegal Sands, 
and passes near the picturesque little harbour of Solvach, situated 
in a deep and narrow cove, surrounded by high rocks. 

2 The remains of vast submerged forests are commonly found 
on many parts of the coast of Wales, especially in the north. 
Giraldus has elsewhere spoken of this event in the Vaticinal 
History, book i. chap. 35. 

92 Giraldus Cambrensis 

the time of the deluge, or not long after, but certainly 
in very remote ages, being by degrees consumed and 
swallowed up by the violence and encroachments of the 
sea. During the same tempest many sea fish were 
driven, by the violence of the wind and waves, upon dry 
land. We were well lodged at St. David's by Peter, 
bishop of the see, a liberal man, who had hitherto accom- 
panied us during the whole of our journey. 



Since,, therefore, St. David's is the head, and in times 
past was the metropolitan, city of Wales, though now, 
alas ! retaining more of the name than of the omen, 1 yet 
I have not forborne to weep over the obsequies of our 
ancient and undoubted mother, to follow the mournful 
hearse, and to deplore with tearful sighs the ashes of our 
half-buried matron. I shall, therefore, endeavour briefly 
to declare to you in what manner, from whence, and from 
what period the pall was first brought to St. David's, 
and how it was taken away; how many prelates were 
invested with the pall; and how many were despoiled 
thereof; together with their respective names to this 
present day. 

1 Giraldus, ever glad to pun upon words, here opposes the word 
nomen to omen. " Plus nominis habens quam ominii.' 1 '' He may 
have perhaps borrowed this expression from Plautus. Plautus 
Delphini, torn. ii. p. 27. Actus iv., Scena iv. 



We are informed by the British histories, that Dubricius, 
archbishop of Caerleon, sensible of the infirmities of age, 
or rather being desirous of leading a life of contempla- 
tion, resigned his honours to David, who is said to have 
been uncle to king Arthur; and by his interest the see 
was translated to Menevia, although Caerleon, as we 
have observed in the first book, was much better adapted 
for the episcopal see. For Menevia is situated in a most 
remote corner of land upon the Irish ocean, the soil 
stoney and barren, neither clothed with woods, dis- 
tinguished by rivers, nor adorned by meadows, ever 
exposed to the winds and tempests, and continually 
subject to the hostile attacks of the Flemings on one side, 
and of the Welsh on the other. For the holy men who 
settled here, chose purposely such a retired habitation, 
that by avoiding the noise of the world, and preferring 
an heremitical to a pastoral life, they might more freely 
provide for " that part which shall not be taken away; " 
for David was remarkable for his sanctity and religion, 
as the history of his life will testify. Amongst the many 
miracles recorded of him, three appear to me the most 
worthy of admiration: his origin and conception; his 
pre-election thirty years before his birth; and what 
exceeds all, the sudden rising of the ground, at Brevy, 
under his feet while preaching, to the great astonishment 
of all the beholders. 

Since the time of David, twenty-five archbishops pre- 
sided over the see of Menevia, whose names are here 
subjoined: David, Cenauc, Eliud, who was also called 


96 Giraldus Cambrensis 

Teilaus, Ceneu, Morwal, Haerunen, Elwaed, Gurnuen, 
Lendivord, Gorwysc, Cogan, Cledauc, Anian, Euloed, 
Ethelmen, Elauc, Malscoed, Sadermen, Catellus, Sul- 
haithnai, Nonis, Etwal, Asser, Arthuael, Sampson. In 
the time of Sampson, the pall was translated from 
Menevia in the following manner: a disorder called the 
yellow plague, and by the physicians the icteric passion, 
of which the people died in great numbers, raged 
throughout Wales, at the time when Sampson held the 
archiepiscopal see. Though a holy man, and fearless of 
death, he was prevailed upon, by the earnest intreaties 
of his people, to go on board a vessel, which was wafted, 
by a south wind, to Britannia Armorica, 1 where he and 
his attendants were safely landed. The see of Dol being 
at that time vacant, he was immediately elected bishop. 
Hence it came to pass, that on account of the pall 
which Sampson had brought thither with him, the suc- 
ceeding bishops, even to our times, always retained it. 
But during the presidency of the archbishop of Tours, 
this adventitious dignity ceased ; yet our countrymen, 
through indolence or poverty, or rather owing to the 
arrival of the English into the island, and the frequent 
hostilities committed against them by the Saxons, lost 
their archiepiscopal honours. But until the entire sub- 
jugation of Wales by king Henry I., the Welsh bishops 
were always consecrated by the bishop of St. David's; 
and he was consecrated by his suffragans, without any 
profession or submission being made to any other church. 
From the time of Sampson to that of king Henry I., 
nineteen bishops presided over this see: Ruelin, Rod- 
herch, Elguin, Lunuerd, Nergu, Sulhidir, Eneuris, 
Morgeneu, who was the first bishop of St. David's who 
ate flesh, and was there killed by pirates; and he ap- 

1 Armorica is derived from the Celtic words Ar and Mor, which 
signify on or near the sea, and so called to distinguish it from the 
more inland parts of Britany. The maritime cities of Gaul were 
called " Armories civitates Universis civitatibus qua? ocean urn 
attingunt, quaeque Gallorum consuetudine Armoricaj appellantur." 
C<z%ar, Comment, lib. vii. 

Itinerary Through Wales 97 

peared to a certain bishop in Ireland on the night of his 
death, shewing his wounds, and saying, " Because I ate 
flesh, I am become flesh." Nathan, Ievan (who was 
bishop only one night), Argustel, Morgenueth, Ervin, 
Tramerin, Joseph, Bleithud, Sulghein, Abraham, Wil- 
fred. Since the subjugation of Wales to the present 
time, three only have held the see : in the reign of king 
Henry I., Bernard; in the reign of king Stephen, David 
II.; and in the reign of king Henry II., Peter, a monk 
of the order of Cluny; who all, by the king's mandate, 
were consecrated at Canterbury; as also Geoffrey, prior 
and canon of Lanthoni, who succeeded them in the reign 
of king John, and was preferred to this see by the in- 
terest of Hubert, archbishop of Canterbury, and after- 
wards consecrated by him. We do not hear that either 
before or after that subjugation, any archbishop of 
Canterbury ever entered the borders of Wales, except 
Baldwin, a monk of the Cistercian order, abbot of Ford, 
and afterwards bishop of Worcester, who traversed that 
rough, inaccessible, and remote country with a laudable 
devotion for the service of the cross; and as a token of 
investiture, celebrated mass in all the cathedral churches. 
So that till lately the see of St. David's owed no sub- 
jection to that of Canterbury, as may be seen in the 
English History of Bede, who says that " Augustine, 
bishop of the Angles, after the conversion of king Ethel- 
fred and the English people, called together the bishops 
of Wales on the confines of the West Saxons, as legate of 
the apostolic see. When the seven bishops x appeared, 
Augustine, sitting in his^chair, with Roman pride, did not 
rise up at their entrance. Observing his haughtiness 
(after the example of a holy anchorite of their nation), 
they immediately returned, and treated him and his 
statutes with contempt, publicly proclaiming that they 
would not acknowledge him for their archbishop ; alleg- 
ing, that if he now refused to rise up to us, how much 

1 The bishops of Hereford, Worcester, Llandaff, Bangor, St. 
Asaph, Llanbadarn, and Margam, or Glamorgan. 

98 Giraldus Cambrensis 

more will he hold us in contempt, if we submit to be 
subject to him? " That there were at that time seven 
bishops in Wales, and now only four, may be thus ac- 
counted for; because perhaps there were formerly more 
cathedral churches in Wales than there are at present, 
or the extent of Wales might have been greater. Amongst 
so many bishops thus deprived of their dignity, Bernard, 
the first French [i. e. Norman] bishop of St. David's, 
alone defended the rights of his church in a public 
manner; and after many expensive and vexatious 
appeals to the court of Rome, would not have reclaimed 
them in vain, if false witnesses had not publicly appeared 
at the council of Rheims, before pope Eugenius, and 
testified that he had made profession and submission to 
the see of Canterbury. Supported by three auxiliaries, 
the favour and intimacy of king Henry, a time of peace, 
and consequent plenty, he boldly hazarded the trial of 
so great a cause, and so confident was he of his just right, 
that he sometimes caused the cross to be carried before 
him during his journey through Wales. 

Bernard, however commendable in some particulars, 
was remarkable for his insufferable pride and ambition. 
For as soon as he became courtier and a creature of the 
king's, panting after English riches by means of trans- 
lation, (a malady under which all the English sent hither 
seem to labour), he alienated many of the lands of his 
church without either advantage or profit, and disposed 
of others so indiscreetly and improvidently, that when 
ten carucates x of land were required for military pur- 
poses, he would, with a liberal hand, give twenty or 
thirty; and of the canonical rites and ordinances which 
he had miserably and unhappily instituted at St. David's, 
he would hardly make use of one, at most only of two or 
three. With respect to the two sees of Canterbury and 
St. David's, I will briefly explain my opinion of their 

1 The value of the carucate is rather uncertain, or, probably, it 
varied in different districts, according to the character of the land ; 
but it is considered to have been usually equivalent to a hide, that 
is, to about 240 statute acres. 

Itinerary Through Wales 99 

present state. On one side, you will see royal favour, 
affluence of riches, numerous and opulent suffragan 
bishops, great abundance of learned men and well skilled 
in the laws; on the other side, a deficiency of all these 
things, and a total want of justice; on which account the 
recovery of its ancient rights will not easily be effected, 
but by means of those great changes and vicissitudes 
which kingdoms experience from various and unexpected 

The spot where the church of St. David's stands, and 
was founded in honour of the apostle St. Andrew, is called 
the Vale of Roses ; which ought rather to be named the 
vale of marble, since it abounds with one, and by no 
means with the other. The river Alun, a muddy and 
unproductive rivulet, 1 bounding the churchyard on the 
northern side, flows under a marble stone, called Lech- 
lavar, which has been polished by continual treading of 
passengers, and concerning the name, size, and quality 
of which we have treated in our Vaticinal History. 2 
Henry II., on his return from Ireland, is said to have 
passed over this stone, before he devoutly entered the 
church of St. Andrew and St. David. Having left the 
following garrisons in Ireland, namely, Hugh de Lacy 
(to whom he had given Meath in fee) in Dublin, with 
twenty knights; Fitz-Stephen and Maurice Fitzgerald, 
with other twenty; Humphrey de Bohun, Robert Fitz- 
Bernard, and Hugh de Grainville at Waterford, with 
forty; and William Fitz-Adelm and Philip de Braose at 
Wexford, with twenty ; on the second day of Easter, the 
king embarked at sunrise on board a vessel in the out- 
ward port of Wexford, and, with a south wind, landed 
about noon in the harbour of Menevia. Proceeding 
towards the shrine of St. David, habited like a pilgrim, 
and leaning on a staff, he met at the white gate a pro- 
cession of the canons of the church coming forth to 

1 This little brook does not, in modern times, deserve the title 
here given to it by Giraldus, for it produces trout of a most deli- 
cious flavour. 

2 See the Vaticinal History, book i. c. 37. 

i oo Giraldus Cambrensis 

receive him with due honour and reverence. As the 
procession solemnly moved along, a Welsh woman threw 
herself at the king's feet, and made a complaint against 
the bishop of the place, which was explained to the king 
by an interpreter. The woman, immediate attention 
not being paid to her petition, with violent gesticulation, 
and a loud and impertinent voice, exclaimed repeatedly, 
" Revenge us this day, Lechlavar! revenge us and the 
nation in this man ! " On being chidden and driven 
away by those who understood the British language, 
she more vehemently and forcibly vociferated in the like 
manner, alluding to the vulgar fiction and proverb of 
Merlin, " That a king of England, and conqueror of 
Ireland, should be wounded in that country by a man 
with a red hand, and die upon Lechlavar, on his return 
through Menevia." This was the name of that stone 
which serves as a bridge over the river Alun, which 
divides the cemetery from the northern side of the 
church. It was a beautiful piece of marble, polished by 
the feet of passengers, ten feet in length, six in breadth, 
and one in thickness. Lechlavar signifies in the British 
language a talking stone. 1 There was an ancient tradi- 
tion respecting this stone, that at a time when a corpse 
was carried over it for interment, it broke forth into 
speech, and by the effort cracked in the middle, which 
fissure is still visible; and on account of this barbarous 
and ancient superstition, the corpses are no longer 
brought over it. The king, who had heard the pro- 
phecy, approaching the stone, stopped for a short time 
at the foot of it, and, looking earnestly at it, boldly 
passed over; then, turning round, and looking towards 
the stone, thus indignantly inveighed against the pro- 
phet: " Who will hereafter give credit to the lying 
Merlin? " A person standing by, and observing what 
had passed, in order to vindicate the injury done to the 
prophet, replied, with a loud voice, " Thou art not that 

1 Lechlavar, so called from the words in Welsh, Llec, a stone, 
and Llavar, speech. 

Itinerary Through Wales 101 

king by whom Ireland is to be conquered, or of whom 
Merlin prophesied ! " The king then entering the 
church founded in honour of St. Andrew and St. David, 
devoutly offered up his prayers, and heard mass per- 
formed by a chaplain, whom alone, out of so large a body 
of priests, Providence seems to have kept fasting till 
that hour, for this very purpose. Having supped at St. 
David's, the king departed for the castle of Haverford, 
distant about twelve miles. It appears very remarkable 
to me, that in our days, when David II. presided over 
the see, the river should have flowed with wine, and that 
the spring, called Pistyll Dewi, or the Pipe of David, 
from its flowing through a pipe into the eastern side of 
the churchyard, should have run with milk. The birds 
also of that place, called jackdaws, from being so long 
unmolested by the clergy of the church, were grown so 
tame and domesticated, as not to be afraid of persons 
dressed in black. In clear weather the mountains of 
Ireland are visible from hence, and the passage over the 
Irish sea may be performed in one short day ; on which 
account William, the son of William the Bastard, and 
the second of the Norman kings in England, who was 
called Rufus, and who had penetrated far into Wales, 
on seeing Ireland from these rocks, is reported to have 
said, " I will summon hither all the ships of my realm, 
and with them make a bridge to attack that country." 
Which speech being related to Murchard, prince of 
Leinster, he paused awhile, and answered, " Did the 
king add to this mighty threat, If God please? " and 
being informed that he had made no mention of God in 
his speech, rejoicing in such a prognostic, he replied, 
" Since that man trusts in human, not divine power, I 
fear not his coming." 

io2 Giraldus Cambrensis 



The archbishop having celebrated mass early in the 
morning before the high altar of the church of St. David, 
and enjoined to the archdeacon (Giraldus) the office of 
preaching to the people, hastened through Cemmeis 1 to 
meet prince Rhys at Aberteivi. 2 Two circumstances 
occurred in the province of Cemmeis, the one in our own 
time, the other a little before, which I think right not to 
pass over in silence. In our time, a young man, native 
of this country, during a severe illness, suffered as violent 
a persecution from toads, 3 as if the reptiles of the whole 
province had come to him by agreement; and though 
destroyed by his nurses and friends, they increased again 
on all sides in infinite numbers, like hydras' heads. His 
attendants, both friends and strangers, being wearied 
out, he was drawn up in a kind of bag, into a high tree, 
stripped of its leaves, and shred ; nor was he there secure 
from his venomous enemies, for they crept up the tree 
in great numbers, and consumed him even to the very 
bones. The young man's name was Sisillus Esceir-hir, 
that is, Sisillus Long Leg. It is also recorded that by 
the hidden but never unjust will of God, another man 
suffered a similar persecution from rats. In the same 
province, during the reign of king Henry I., a rich man, 
who had a residence on the northern side of the Preseleu 

1 Cemmeis, Cemmaes, Kemes, and Kemeys. Thus is the name 
of this district variously spelt. Cemmaes in Welsh signifies a 
circle or amphitheatre for games. 

2 [Cardigan.] 

3 There is a place in Cemmaes now called Tre-liffan, i.e. Toad's 
town; and over a chimney-piece in the house there is a figure of 
a toad sculptured in marble, said to have been brought from 
Italy, and intended probably to confirm and commemorate this 
tradition of Giraldus. 

Itinerary Through Wales 103 

mountains/ was warned for three successive nights, by 
dreams, that if he put his hand under a stone which hung 
over the spring of a neighbouring well, called the fountain 
of St. Bernacus, 2 he would find there a golden torques. 
Obeying the admonition on the third day, he received, 
from a viper, a deadly wound in his finger; but as it 
appears that many treasures have been discovered 
through dreams, it seems to me probable that, with re- 
spect to rumours, in the same manner as to dreams, some 
ought, and some ought not, to be believed. 

I shall not pass over in silence the circumstance which 
occurred in the principal castle of Cemmeis at Lanhever, 3 
in our days. Rhys, son of Gruffydd, by the instigation 
of his son Gruffydd, a cunning and artful man, took away 
by force, from William, son of Martin (de Tours), his 
son-in-law, the castle of Lanhever, notwithstanding he 
had solemnly sworn, by the most precious relics, that 
his indemnity and security should be faithfully main- 
tained, and, contrary to his word and oath, gave it to 
his son Gruffydd; but since " A sordid prey has not a 
good ending," the Lord, who by the mouth of his pro- 
phet exclaims " Vengeance is mine, and I will repay ! " 
ordained that the castle should be taken away from the 
contriver of this wicked plot, Gruffydd, and bestowed 
upon the man in the world he most hated, his brother 
Malgon. Rhys, also, about two years afterwards, in- 
tending to disinherit his own daughter, and two grand- 

1 Preseleu, Preselaw, Prescelly, Presselw. 

2 St. Bernacus is said, by Cressy, to have been a man of admir- 
able sanctity, who, through devotion, made a journey to Rome; 
and from thence returning into Britany, filled all places with the 
fame of his piety and miracles. He is commemorated on the 7th 
of April. Several churches in Wales were dedicated to him; one 
of which, called Llanfyrnach, or the church of St. Bernach, is 
situated on the eastern side of the Prescelley mountain. 

3 The " castrum apud Lanhever " was at Nevern, a small 
village between Newport and Cardigan, situated on the banks of 
a little river bearing the same name, which discharges itself into 
the sea at Newport. On a hill immediately above the western 
side of the parish church, is the site of a large castle, undoubtedly 
the one alluded to by Giraldus. 

104 Giraldus Cambrensis 

daughters and grandsons, by a singular instance of divine 
vengeance, was taken prisoner by his sons in battle, and 
confined in this same castle; thus justly suffering the 
greatest disgrace and confusion in the very place where 
he had perpetrated an act of the most consummate base- 
ness. I think it also worthy to be remembered, that at 
the time this misfortune befel him, he had concealed in 
his possession, at Dinevor, the collar of St. Canauc of 
Brecknock, for which, by divine vengeance, he merited 
to be taken prisoner and confined. 

We slept that night in the monastery of St. Dogmael, 
where, as well as on the next day at Aberteivi, we were 
handsomely entertained by prince Rhys. On the Cem- 
meis side of the river, not far from the bridge, the people 
of the neighbourhood being assembled together, and 
Rhys and his two sons, Malgon and Gruffydd, being pre- 
sent, the word of the Lord was persuasively preached 
both by the archbishop and the archdeacon, and many 
were induced to take the cross ; one of whom was an only 
son, and the sole comfort of his mother, far advanced in 
years, who, steadfastly gazing on him, as if inspired by 
the Deity, uttered these words : " 0, most beloved Lord 
Jesus Christ, I return thee hearty thanks for having con- 
ferred on me the blessing of bringing forth a son, whom 
thou may est think worthy of thy service." Another 
woman at Aberteivi, of a very different way of thinking, 
held her husband fast by his cloak and girdle, and 
publicly and audaciously prevented him from going to 
the archbishop to take the cross ; but, three nights after- 
wards, she heard a terrible voice, saying, " Thou hast 
taken away my servant from me, therefore what thou 
most lovest shall be taken away from thee." On her 
relating this vision to her husband, they were struck with 
mutual terror and amazement; and on falling asleep 
again, she unhappily overlaid her little boy, whom, with 
more affection than prudence, she had taken to bed with 
her. The husband, relating to the bishop of the diocese 
both the vision and its fatal prediction, took the cross, 

Itinerary Through Wales 105 

which his wife spontaneously sewed on her husband's 

Near the head of the bridge where the sermons were 
delivered, the people immediately marked out the site 
for a chapel, 1 on a verdant plain, as a memorial of so 
great an event; intending that the altar should be 
placed on the spot where the archbishop stood while ad- 
dressing the multitude ; and it is well known that many 
miracles (the enumeration of which would be too tedious 
to relate) were performed on the crowds of sick people 
who resorted hither from different parts of the country. 



The noble river Teivi flows here, and abounds with the 
finest salmon, more than any other river of Wales ; it has 
a productive fishery near Cilgerran, which is situated on 
the summit of a rock, at a place called Canarch Mawr, 2 
the ancient residence of St. Ludoc, where the river, fall- 
ing from a great height, forms a cataract, which the 
salmon ascend, by leaping from the bottom to the top of 
a rock, which is about the height of the longest spear, and 
would appear wonderful, were it not the nature of that 
species of fish to leap: hence they have received the 
name of salmon, from salio. Their particular manner of 
leaping (as I have specified in my Topography of Ireland) 
is thus : fish of this kind, naturally swimming against the 

1 On the Cemmaes, or Pembrokeshire side of the river Teivi, 
and near the end of the bridge, there is a place still called Park y 
Cappel, or the Chapel Field, which is undoubtedly commemora- 
tive of the circumstance recorded by our author. 

2 Now known by the name of Kenarth, which may be derived 
from Cefn y garth the back of the wear, a ridge of land behind 
the wear. 

106 Giraldus Cambrensis 

course of the river (for as birds fly against the wind, so 
do fish swim against the stream), on meeting with any 
sudden obstacle, bend their tail towards their mouth, 
and sometimes, in order to give a greater power to their 
leap, they press it with their mouth, and suddenly free- 
ing themselves from this circular form, they spring with 
great force (like a bow let loose) from the bottom to 
the top of the leap, to the great astonishment of the 
beholders. The church dedicated to St. Ludoc, 1 the mill, 
bridge, salmon leap, an orchard with a delightful garden, 
all stand together on a small plot of ground. The Teivi 
has another singular particularity, being the only river 
in Wales, or even in England, which has beavers ; 2 in 
Scotland they are said to be found in one river, but are 
very scarce. I think it not a useless labour, to insert a 
few remarks respecting the nature of these animals; 
the manner in which they bring their materials from the 
woods to the water, and with what skill they connect 
them in the construction of their dwellings in the midst 
of rivers; their means of defence on the eastern and 

1 The name of St. Ludoc is not found in the lives of the saints. 
Leland mentions a St. Clitauc, who had a church dedicated to 
him in South Wales, and who was killed by some of his companions 
whilst hunting. " Clitaucus Southe-Walliae regulus inter venan- 
dum a suis sodalibus occisus est. Ecclesia S. Clitauci in Southe 
Wallia." Leland, Itin., torn. viii. p. 95. 

2 The Teivy is still very justly distinguished for the quantity 
and quality of its salmon, but the beaver no longer disturbs its 
streams. That this animal did exist in the days of Howel Dha 
(though even then a rarity), the mention made of it in his laws, 
and the high price set upon its skin, most clearly evince; but if 
the castor of Giraldus, and the avanc of Humphrey Llwyd and 
of the Welsh dictionaries, be really the same animal, it certainly 
was not peculiar to the Teivi, but was equally known in North 
Wales, as the names of places testify. A small lake in Mont- 
gomeryshire is called Llyn yr Afangc; a pool in the river Conwy, 
not far from Bettws, bears the same name, and the vale called 
Nant Ffrancon, upon the river Ogwen, in Caernarvonshire, is 
supposed by the natives to be a corruption from Nant yr Afan 
cwm, or the Vale of the Beavers. Mr. Owen, in his dictionary, 
says, " That it has been seen in this vale within the memory of 
man." Giraldus has previously spoken of the beaver in his Topo- 
graphy of Ireland, Distinc. i. c. 21. 

Itinerary Through Wales 107 

western sides against hunters ; and also concerning their 
fish-like tails. 

The beavers, in order to construct their castles in the 
middle of rivers, make use of the animals of their own 
species instead of carts, who, by a wonderful mode of 
carriage, convey the timber from the woods to the rivers. 
Some of them, obeying the dictates of nature, receive on 
their bellies the logs of wood cut off by their associates, 
which they hold tight with their feet, and thus with 
transverse pieces placed in their mouths, are drawn along 
backwards, with their cargo, by other beavers, who 
fasten themselves with their teeth to the raft. The 
moles use a similar artifice in clearing out the dirt from 
the cavities they form by scraping. In some deep and 
still corner of the river, the beavers use such skill in the 
construction of their habitations, that not a drop of 
water can penetrate, or the force of storms shake them; 
nor do they fear any violence but that of mankind, 
nor even that, unless well armed. They entwine the 
branches of willows with other wood, and different kinds 
of leaves, to the usual height of the water, and having 
made within-side a communication from floor to floor, 
they elevate a kind of stage, or scaffold, from which they 
may observe and watch the rising of the waters. In 
the course of time, their habitations bear the appear- 
ance of a grove of willow trees, rude and natural without, 
but artfully constructed within. This animal can re- 
main in or under water at its pleasure, like the frog or 
seal, who shew, by the smoothness or roughness of their 
skins, the flux and reflux of the sea. These three 
animals, therefore, live indifferently under the water, or 
in the air, and have short legs, broad bodies, stubbed 
tails, and resemble the mole in their corporal shape. It 
is worthy of remark, that the beaver has but four teeth, 
two above, and two below, which being broad and sharp, 
cut like a carpenter's axe, and as such he uses them. 
They make excavations and dry hiding places in the 
banks near their dwellings, and when they hear the 

io8 Giraldus Cambrensis 

stroke of the hunter, who with sharp poles endeavours to 
penetrate them, they fly as soon as possible to the de- 
fence of their castle, having first blown out the water 
from the entrance of the hole, and rendered it foul and 
muddy by scraping the earth, in order thus artfully to 
elude the stratagems of the well-armed hunter, who is 
watching them from the opposite banks of the river. 
When the beaver finds he cannot save himself from the 
pursuit of the dogs who follow him, that he may ransom 
his body by the sacrifice of a part, he throws away that, 
which by natural instinct he knows to be the object 
sought for, and in the sight of the hunter castrates him- 
self, from which circumstance he has gained the name 
of Castor; and if by chance the dogs should chase an 
animal which had been previously castrated, he has the 
sagacity to run to an elevated spot, and there lifting up 
his leg, shews the hunter that the object of his pursuit is 
gone. Cicero speaking of them says, " They ransom 
themselves by that part of the body, for which they are 
chiefly sought." And Juvenal says, 

Qui se 

Eunuehum ipse facit, cupiens evadere damno 

And St. Bernard, 

" Prodit enim castor proprio de corpore velox 
Reddere quas sequitur hostis avarus opes." 

Thus, therefore, in order to preserve his skin, which is 
sought after in the west, and the medicinal part of his 
body, which is coveted in the east, although he cannot 
save himself entirely, yet, by a wonderful instinct and 
sagacity, he endeavours to avoid the stratagems of his 
pursuers. The beavers have broad, short tails, thick, 
like the palm of a hand, which they use as a rudder in 
swimming ; and although the rest of their body is hairy, 
this part, like that of seals, is without hair, and smooth; 
upon which account, in Germany and the arctic regions, 
where beavers abound, great and religious persons, in 

Itinerary Through Wales i 09 

times of fasting, eat the tails of this fish-like animal, as 
having both the taste and colour of fish. 

We proceeded on our journey from Cilgerran towards 
Pont-Stephen, 1 leaving Cruc Mawr, i.e. the great hill, 
near Aberteivi, on our left hand. On this spot Gruffydd, 
son of Rhys ap Tewdwr, soon after the death of king 
Henry I., by a furious onset gained a signal victory 
against the English army, which, by the murder of the 
illustrious Richard de Clare, near Abergevenny (before 
related), had lost its leader and chief. 2 A tumulus is to 
be seen on the summit of the aforesaid hill, and the in- 
habitants affirm that it will adapt itself to persons of all 
stature ; and that if any armour is left there entire in the 
evening, it will be found, according to vulgar tradition, 
broken to pieces in the morning. 



A sermon having been preached on the following morn- 
ing at Pont Stephen, 3 by the archbishop and archdeacon, 
and also by two abbots of the Cistercian order, John 
of Albadomus, and Sisillus of Stratflur, 4 who faithfully 

1 Our author having made a long digression, in order to intro- 
duce the history of the beaver, now continues his Itinerary. 
From Cardigan, the archbishop proceeded towards Pont-Stephen, 
leaving a hill, called Cruc Mawr, on the left hand, which still 
retains its ancient name, and agrees exactly with the position 
given to it by Giraldus. On its summit is a tumulus, and some 
appearance of an intrenchment. 

2 In 1135. 

3 Lampeter, or Llanbedr, a small town near the river Teivi, 
still retains the name of Pont-Stephen. 

4 Leland thus speaks of Ystrad Fflur or Strata Florida: " Strate- 
flere is set round about with montanes not far distant, except on 

i i o Giraldus Cambrensis 

attended us in those parts, and as far as North Wales, 
many persons were induced to take the cross. We pro- 
ceeded to Stratflur, where we passed the night. On the 
following morning, having on our right the lofty moun- 
tains of Moruge, which in Welsh are called Ellennith, 1 
we were met near the side of a wood by Cyneuric son of 
Rhys, accompanied by a body of light-armed youths. 
This young man was of a fair complexion, with curled 
hair, tall and handsome; clothed only, according to the 
custom of his country, with a thin cloak and inner gar- 
ment, his legs and feet, regardless of thorns and thistles, 
were left bare ; a man, not adorned by art, but nature ; 
bearing in his presence an innate, not an acquired, 
dignity of manners. A sermon having been preached to 
these three young men, Gruffydd, Malgon, and Cyneuric, 
in the presence of their father, prince Rhys, and the 
brothers disputing about taking the cross, at length 
Malgon strictly promised that he would accompany the 
archbishop to the king's court, and would obey the 
king's and archbishop's counsel, unless prevented by 
them. From thence we passed through Landewi Brevi, 2 
that is, the church of David of Brevi, situated on the 
summit of that hill which had formerly risen up under 
his feet whilst preaching, during the period of that cele- 
brated synod, when all the bishops, abbots, and clergy 
of Wales, and many other persons, were collected 

the west parte, where Diffrin Tyve is. Many hilles therabout 
hath bene well woddid, as evidently by old rotes apperith, but 
now in them is almost no woode the causes be these. First, the 
wood cut down was never copisid, and this hath beene a great 
cause of destruction of wood thorough Wales. Secondly, after 
cutting down of woodys, the gottys hath so bytten the young 
spring that it never grew but lyke shrubbes. Thirddely, men for 
the monys destroied the great woddis that thei should not har- 
borow theves." This monastery is situated in the wildest part 
of Cardiganshire, surrounded on three sides by a lofty range of 
those mountains, called by our author Ellennith; a spot admir- 
ably suited to the severe and recluse order of the Cistercians. 

1 [Melenydd or Maelienydd.] 

2 Leaving Stratflur, the archbishop and his train returned to 
Llanddewi Brefi, and from thence proceeded to Llanbadarn 

Itinerary Through Wales i i i 

thither on account of the Pelagian heresy, which, al- 
though formerly exploded from Britain by Germanus, 
bishop of Auxerre, had lately been revived in these 
parts. At this place David was reluctantly raised to 
the archbishopric, by the unanimous consent and elec- 
tion of the whole assembly, who by loud acclamations 
testified their admiration of so great a miracle. Dubri- 
cius had a short time before resigned to him this honour 
in due form at Caerleon, from which city the metro- 
politan see was transferred to St. David's. 

Having rested that night at Lhanpadarn Vawr, 1 or the 
church of Paternus the Great, we attracted many persons 
to the service of Christ on the following morning. It is 
remarkable that this church, like many others in Wales 
and Ireland, has a lay abbot; for a bad custom has 
prevailed amongst the clergy, of appointing the most 
powerful people of a parish stewards, or, rather, patrons, 
of their churches ; who, in process of time, from a desire 
of gain, have usurped the whole right, appropriating to 
their own use the possession of all the lands, leaving only 
to the clergy the altars, with their tenths and oblations, 
and assigning even these to their sons and relations in 
the church. Such defenders, or rather destroyers, of the 
church, have caused themselves to be called abbots, and 
presumed to attribute to themselves a title, as well as 
estates, to which they have no just claim. In this state 
we found the church of Lhanpadarn, without a head. 
A certain old man, waxen old in iniquity (whose name 
was Eden Oen, son of Gwaithwoed), being abbot, and his 
sons officiating at the altar. But in the reign of king 
Henry I., when the authority of the English prevailed in 
Wales, the monastery of St. Peter at Gloucester held 
quiet possession of this church; but after his death, the 
English being driven out, the monks were expelled from 
their cloisters, and their places supplied by the same 

1 Llanbadarn Favvr, the church of St. Paternus the Great, is 
situated in a valley, at a short distance from the sea-port town of 
Aberystwyth in Cardiganshire. 

i i 2 Giraldus Cambrensis 

violent intrusion of clergy and laity, which had formerly 
been practised. It happened that in the reign of king 
Stephen, who succeeded Henry I., a knight, born in 
Armorican Britain, having travelled through many parts 
of the world, from a desire of seeing different cities, and 
the manners of their inhabitants, came by chance to 
Lhanpadarn. On a certain feast-day, whilst both the 
clergy and people were waiting for the arrival of the abbot 
to celebrate mass, he perceived a body of young men, 
armed, according to the custom of their country, ap- 
proaching towards the church; and on enquiring which 
of them was the abbot, they pointed out to him a man 
walking foremost, with a long spear in his hand. Gazing 
on him with amazement, he asked, " If the abbot had 
not another habit, or a different staff, from that which 
he now carried before him? " On their answering, 
" No! " he replied, " I have seen indeed and heard this 
day a wonderful novelty ! " and from that hour he re- 
turned home, and finished his labours and researches. 
This wicked people boasts, that a certain bishop * of 
their church (for it formerly was a cathedral) was 
murdered by their predecessors; and on this account, 
chiefly, they ground their claims of right and possession. 
No public complaint having been made against their 
conduct, we have thought it more prudent to pass over, 
for the present, the enormities of this wicked race with 
dissimulation, than exasperate them by a further re- 

1 The name of this bishop is said to have been Idnerth, and the 
same personage whose death is commemorated in an inscription 
at Llanddewi Brefi. 

Itinerary Through Wales i i 3 




Approaching to the river Devi, 1 which divides North 
and South Wales, the bishop of St. David's, and Rhys 
the son of Gruffydd, who, with a liberality peculiarly 
praiseworthy in so illustrious a prince, had accompanied 
us from the castle of Aberteivi, throughout all Cardigan- 
shire, to this place, returned home. Having crossed 
the river in a boat, and quitted the diocese of St. David's, 
we entered the land of the sons of Conan, or Merionyth, 
the first province of Venedotia on that side of the 
country, and belonging to the bishopric of Bangor. 2 
We slept that night at Towyn. Early next morning, 
Gruffydd son of Conan 3 came to meet us, humbly and 
devoutly asking pardon for having so long delayed his 
attention to the archbishop. On the same day, we 
ferried over the bifurcate river Maw, 4 where Malgo, son 
of Rhys, who had attached himself to the archbishop, as 
a companion to the king's court, discovered a ford near 

1 This river is now called Dovey. 

2 From Llanbadarn our travellers directed their course towards 
the sea-coast, and ferrying over the river Dovey, which separates 
North from South Wales, proceeded to Towyn, in Merionethshire, 
where they passed the night. [Venedotia is the Latin name for 

3 The province of Merionyth was at this period occupied by 
David, the son of Owen Gwynedd, who had seized it forcibly 
from its rightful inheritor. This Gruffydd who must not be 
confused with his great-grandfather, the famous Gruffydd ap 
Conan, prince of Gwynedd was son to Conan ap Owen Gwynedd; 
he died a.d. 1200, and was buried in a monk's cowl, in the abbey 
of Conway. 

4 The epithet " bifurcus," ascribed by Giraldus to the river 
Maw, alludes to its two branches, which unite their streams a little 
way below Llaneltid bridge, and form an aestuary, which flows 
down to the sea at Barmouth, or Aber Maw. The ford at this 
place, discovered by Malgo, no longer exists. 


114 Giraldus Cambrensis 

the sea. That night we lay at Llanvair, 1 that is the 
church of St. Mary, in the province of Ardudwy. 2 This 
territory of Conan, and particularly Merionyth, is the 
rudest and roughest district of all Wales; the ridges 
of its mountains are very high and narrow, terminating in 
sharp peaks, and so irregularly jumbled together, that 
if the shepherds conversing or disputing with each other, 
from their summits, should agree to meet, they could 
scarcely effect their purpose in the course of the whole 
day. The lances of this country are very long; for as 
South Wales excels in the use of the bow, so North Wales 
is distinguished for its skill in the lance ; insomuch that 
an iron coat of mail will not resist the stroke of a lance 
thrown at a small distance. The next morning, the 
youngest son of Conan, named Meredyth, met us at the 
passage of a bridge, attended by his people, where many 
persons were signed with the cross; amongst whom was 
a fine young man of his suite, and one of his intimate 
friends; and Meredyth, observing that the cloak, on 
which the cross was to be sewed, appeared of too thin and 
of too common a texture, with a flood of tears, threw him 
down his own. 

1 Llanfair is a small village, about a mile and a half from Harlech, 
with a very simple church, placed in a retired spot, backed by 
precipitous mountains. Here the archbishop and Giraldus slept, 
on their journey from Towyn to Nevyn. 

2 Ardudwy was a comot of the cantref Dunodic, in Merioneth* 
shire, and according to Leland, " Streccith from half Trait Mawr 
to Abermaw on the shore xii myles." The bridge here alluded 
to, was probably over the river Artro, which forms a small aestuary 
near the village of Llanbedr. 

Itinerary Through Wales i i 5 



We continued our journey over the Traeth Mawr, 1 and 
Traeth Bachan, 2 that is, the greater and the smaller arm 
of the sea, where two stone castles have newly been 
erected; one called Deudraeth, belonging to the sons 
of Conan, situated in Evionyth, towards the northern 
mountains ; the other named Cam Madryn, the property 
of the sons of Owen, built on the other side of the river 
towards the sea, on the head-land Lleyn. 3 Traeth, in 
the Welsh language, signifies a tract of sand flooded by 
the tides, and left bare when the sea ebbs. We had 
before passed over the noted rivers, the Dissenith, 4 
between the Maw and Traeth Mawr, and the Arthro, 
between the Traeth Mawr and Traeth Bachan, We 
slept that night at Nevyn, on the eve of Palm Sunday, 
where the archdeacon, after long inquiry and research, 
is said to have found Merlin Sylvestris. 5 

1 The Traeth Mawr, or the large sands, are occasioned by a 
variety of springs and rivers which flow from the Snowdon moun- 
tains, and, uniting their streams, form an asstuary below Pont 

2 The Traeth Bychan. or the small sands, are chiefly formed by 
the river which runs down the beautiful vale of Festiniog to Maent- 
wrog and Tan y bwlch, near which place it becomes navigable. 
Over each of these sands the road leads from Merionyth into 

3 Lleyn, the Canganorum promontorium of Ptolemy, was an 
extensive hundred containing three comots, and comprehending 
that long neck of land between Caernarvon and Cardigan bays. 
Leland says, " Al Lene is as it were a pointe into the se." 

4 In mentioning the rivers which the missionaries had lately 
crossed, our author has been guilty of a great topographical error 
in placing the river Dissennith between the Maw and Traeth 
Mawr, as also in placing the Arthro between the Traeth Mawr and 
Traeth Bychan, as a glance at a map will shew. 

5 To two personages of this name the gift of prophecy was 
anciently attributed: one was called Ambrosius, the other Syl- 

i 1 6 Giraldus Cambrensis 

Beyond Lleyn, there is a small island inhabited by 
very religious monks, called Ca^libes, or Colidei. This 
island, either from the wholesomeness of its climate, 
owing to its vicinity to Ireland, or rather from some 
miracle obtained by the merits of the saints, has this 
wonderful peculiarity, that the oldest people die first, 
because diseases are uncommon, and scarcely any die 
except from extreme old age. Its name is Enlli in the 
Welsh, and Berdesey * in the Saxon language ; and very 
many bodies of saints are said to be buried there, and 
amongst them that of Daniel, bishop of Bangor. 

The archbishop having, by his sermon the next day, 
induced many persons to take the cross, we proceeded 
towards Banchor, passing through Caernarvon, 2 that is, 
the castle of Arvon; it is called Arvon, the province 
opposite to Mon, because it is so situated with respect 
to the island of Mona. Our road leading us to a steep 
valley, 3 with many broken ascents and descents, we dis- 

vestris; the latter here mentioned (and whose works Giraldus, 
after a long research, found at Nefyn) was, according to the story, 
the son of Morvryn, and generally called Merddin Wyllt, or 
Merddin the Wild. He is pretended to have flourished about the 
middle of the sixth century, and ranked with Merddin Emrys and 
Taliesin, under the appellation of the three principal bards of the 
Isle of Britain. 

1 This island once afforded, according to the old accounts, an 
asylum to twenty thousand saints, and after death, graves to as 
many of their bodies ; whence it has been called Insula Sanctorum, 
the Isle of Saints. This island derived its British name of Enlli 
from the fierce current which rages between it and the main land. 
The Saxons named it Bardsey, probably from the Bards, who 
retired hither, preferring solitude to the company of invading 

2 This ancient city has been recorded by a variety of names. 
During the time of the Romans it was called Segontium, the site 
of which is now called Caer Seiont, the fortress on the river Seiont, 
where the Setantiorum portus, and the Seteia .Estuarium of 
Ptolemy have also been placed. It is called, by Nennius, Caer 
Custent, or the city of Constantius; and Matthew of Westminster 
says, that about the year 1283 the body of Constantius, father of 
the emperor Constantine, was found there, and honourably de- 
posited in the church by order of king Edward I. 

3 I searched in vain for a valley which would answer the descrip- 
tion here given by Giraldus, and the scene of so much pleasantry 
to the travellers; for neither do the old or new road, from Caer- 

Itinerary Through Wales i ij 

mounted from our horses, and proceeded on foot, rehears- 
ing, as it were, by agreement, some experiments of our 
intended pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Having traversed the 
valley, and reached the opposite side with considerable 
fatigue, the archbishop, to rest himself and recover his 
breath, sat down on an oak which had been torn up by 
the violence of the winds ; and relaxing into a pleasantry 
highly laudable in a person of his approved gravity, thus 
addressed his attendants: " Who amongst you, in this 
company, can now delight our wearied ears by whistling ?" 
which is not easily done by people out of breath. He 
affirming that he could, if he thought fit, the sweet notes 
are heard, in an adjoining wood, of a bird, which some 
said was a wood-pecker, and others, more correctly, an 
aureolus. The wood-pecker is called in French, spec, and 
with its strong bill, perforates oak trees; the other bird 
in called aureolus, from the golden tints of its feathers, 
and at certain seasons utters a sweet whistling note, 
instead of a song. Some persons having remarked, 
that the nightingale was never heard in this country, 
the archbishop, with a significant smile, replied, " The 
nightingale followed wise counsel, and never came into 
Wales ; but we, unwise counsel, who have penetrated and 
gone through it." We remained that night at Banchor. 1 

narvon to Bangor, in any way correspond. But I have since 
been informed, that there is a valley called Nant y Garth (near the 
residence of Ashton Smith, Esq., at Vaenol), which terminates at 
about half a mile's distance from the Menai, and therefore not 
observable from the road; it is a serpentine ravine of more than 
a mile, in a direction towards the mountains, and probably that 
which the crusaders crossed on their journey to Bangor. 

1 Bangor. This cathedral church must not be confounded with 
the celebrated college of the same name, in Flintshire, founded 
by Dunod Vawr, son of Pabo, a chieftain who lived about the 
beginning of the sixth century, and from him called Bangor 
Dunod. The Bangor, i. e. the college, in Caernarvonshire, is 
properly called Bangor Deiniol, Bangor Vawr yn Arllechwedd, 
and Bangor Vawr uwch Conwy. It owes its origin to Deiniol, 
son of Dunod ap Pabo, a saint who lived in the early part of the 
sixth century, and in the year 525 founded this college at Bangor, 
in Caernarvonshire, over which he presided as abbot. Guy 
Rufus, called by our author Guianus, was at this time bishop of 
this see, and died in n 90. 

1 1 8 Giraldus Cambrensis 

the metropolitan see of North Wales, and were well 
entertained by the bishop of the diocese. 1 On the next 
day, mass being celebrated by the archbishop before the 
high altar, the bishop of that see, at the instance of the 
archbishop and other persons, more importunate than 
persuasive, was compelled to take the cross, to the 
general concern of all his people of both sexes, who ex- 
pressed their grief on this occasion by loud and lament- 
able vociferations. 



From hence, we crossed over a small arm of the sea to 
the island of Mona, 2 distant from thence about two 
miles, where Roderic, the younger son of Owen, attended 
by nearly all the inhabitants of the island, and many 
others from the adjacent countries, came in a devout 
manner to meet us. Confession having been made in 
a place near the shore, where the surrounding rocks 
seemed to form a natural theatre, 3 many persons were 

1 Guianus, or Guy Rufus, dean of Waltham, in Essex, and con- 
secrated to this see, at Ambresbury, Wilts, in May 1177. 

2 Mona, or Anglesey. 

3 The spot selected by Baldwin for addressing the multitude, 
has in some degree been elucidated by the anonymous author of 
the Supplement to Rowland's Mona Antiqua. He says, that 
" From tradition and memorials still retained, we have reasons 
to suppose that they met in an open place in the parish of Lan- 
disilio, called Cerrig y Borth. The inhabitants, by a grateful 
remembrance, to perpetuate the honour of that day, called the 
place where the archbishop stood, Carreg yr Archjagon, i.e. the 
Archbishop's Rock; and where prince Roderic stood, Maen 
Roderic, or the Stone of Roderic." This account is in part corro- 
borated by the following communication from Mr. Richard Llwyd 
of Beaumaris, who made personal inquiries on the spot. " Cerrig 
y Borth, being a rough, undulating district, could not, for that 
reason, have been chosen for addressing a multitude; but adjoin- 

Itinerary Through Wales 1 19 

induced to take the cross, by the persuasive discourses 
of the archbishop, and Alexander, our interpreter, arch- 
deacon of that place, and of Sisillus, abbot of Stratflur. 
Many chosen youths of the family of Roderic were seated 
on an opposite rock, and not one of them could be pre- 
vailed upon to take the cross, although the archbishop 
and others most earnestly exhorted them, but in vain, 
by an address particularly directed to them. It came to 
pass within three days, as if by divine vengeance, that 
these young men, with many others, pursued some 
robbers of that country. Being discomfited and put to 
flight, some were slain, others mortally wounded, and 
the survivors voluntarily assumed that cross they had 
before despised. Roderic, also, who a short time before 
had incestuously married the daughter of Rhys, related to 
him by blood in the third degree, in order, by the assist- 
ance of that prince, to be better able to defend himself 
against the sons of his brothers, whom he had disin- 
herited, not paying attention to the wholesome admoni- 
tions of the archbishop on this subject, was a little while 
afterwards dispossessed of all his lands by their means; 
thus deservedly meeting with disappointment from the 
very source from which he expected support. The 

ing it there are two eminences which command a convenient sur- 
face for that purpose; one called Maen Rodi (the Stone or Rock 
of Roderic), the property of Owen Williams, Esq.; and the other 
Carreg Iago, belonging to Lord Uxbridge. This last, as now pro- 
nounced, means the Rock of St. James; but I have no difficulty 
in admitting, that Carreg yr Arch I agon may (by the compression 
of common, un discriminating language, and the obliteration of 
the event from ignorant minds by the lapse of so many centuries) 
be contracted into Carreg Iago. Cadair yr archesgob is now also 
contracted into Cadair (chair), a seat naturally formed in the 
rock, with a rude arch over it, on the road side, which is a rough 
terrace over the breast of a rocky and commanding cliff, and the 
nearest way from the above eminences to the insulated church of 
Landisilio. This word Cadair, though in general language a 
chair, yet when applied to exalted situations, means an observa- 
tory, as Cadair Idris, etc.; but there can, in my opinion, be^no 
doubt that this seat in the rock is that described by the words 
Cadair yr Archesgob." [Still more probable, and certainly more 
nattering to Giraldus. is that it was called " Cadair yr Arch 
Ddiacon " (the Archdeacon's chair).] 

120 Giraldus Cambrensis 

island of Mona contains three hundred and forty-three 
vills, considered equal to three cantreds. Cantred, a 
compound word from the British and Irish languages, 
is a portion of land equal to one hundred vills. There 
are three islands contiguous to Britain, on its different 
sides, which are said to be nearly of an equal size the 
Isle of Wight on the south, Mona on the west, and 
Mania (Man) on the north-west side. The two first are 
separated from Britain by narrow channels ; the third is 
much further removed, lying almost midway between the 
countries of Ulster in Ireland and Galloway in Scotland. 
The island of Mona is an arid and stony land, rough and 
unpleasant in its appearance, similar in its exterior 
qualities to the land of Pebidion, 1 near St. David's, but 
very different as to its interior value. For this island is 
incomparably more fertile in corn than any other part of 
Wales, from whence arose the British proverb, " Mon 
mam Cymbry, Mona mother of Wales; " and when the 
crops have been defective in all other parts of the 
country, this island, from the richness of its soil and 
abundant produce, has been able to supply all Wales. 

As many things within this island are worthy of 
remark, I shall not think it superfluous to make mention 
of some of them. There is a stone here resembling a 
human thigh, 2 which possesses this innate virtue, that 
whatever distance it may be carried, it returns, of its 
own accord, the following night, as has often been ex- 
perienced by the inhabitants. Hugh, earl of Chester, 3 

1 This hundred contained the comots of Mynyw, or St. David's, 
and Pencaer. 

* I am indebted to Mr. Richard Llwyd for the following curious 
extract from a Manuscript of the late intelligent Mr. Rowlands, 
respecting this miraculous stone, called Maen Morddwyd, or the 
stone of the thigh, which once existed in Llanidan parish. " Hie 
etiam lapis lumbi, vulgo Maen Morddwyd, in hujus casmiterii 
vallo locum sibi e longo a retro tempore obtinuit, exindeque his 
nuperis annis, quo nescio papicola vel qua inscia manu nulla ut 
olim retinente virtute, qua? tunc penitus elanguit aut vetustate eva- 
poravit, nullo sane loci dispendio, nee illi qui eripuit emolumento, 
ereptus et deportatus fuit." 

3 Hugh, earl of Chester. The first earl of Chester after the 

Itinerary Through Wales 121 

in the reign of king Henry I., having by force occupied 
this island and the adjacent country, heard of the 
miraculous power of this stone, and, for the purpose of 
trial, ordered it to be fastened, with strong iron chains, 
to one of a larger size, and to be thrown into the sea. 
On the following morning, however, according to custom, 
it was found in its original position, on which account 
the earl issued a public edict, that no one, from that 
time, should presume to move the stone from its place. 
A countryman, also, to try the powers of this stone, 
fastened it to his thigh, which immediately became 
putrid, and the stone returned to its original situation. 

There is in the same island a stony hill, not very large 
or high, from one side of which, if you cry aloud, you will 
not be heard on the other; and it is called (by anti- 
phrasis) the rock of hearers. In the northern part of 
Great Britain (Northumberland) so named by the Eng- 
lish, from its situation beyond the river Humber, there 
is a hill of a similar nature, where if a loud horn or 
trumpet is sounded on one side, it cannot be heard on the 
opposite one. There is also in this island the church of 
St. Tefredaucus, 1 into which Hugh, earl of Shrewsbury, 
(who, together with the earl of Chester, had forcibly 
entered Anglesey), on a certain night put some dogs, 
which on the following morning were found mad, and he 
himself died within a month; for some pirates, from the 
Orcades, having entered the port of the island in their 
long vessels, the earl, apprised of their approach, boldly 
met them, rushing into the sea upon a spirited horse. 

Norman conquest, was Gherbod, a Fleming, who, having obtained 
leave from king William to go into Flanders for the purpose of 
arranging some family concerns, was taken and detained a prisoner 
by his enemies; upon which the conqueror bestowed the earldom 
of Chester on Hugh de Abrincis or of Avranches, " to hold as 
freely by the sword, as the king himself did England by the crown." 
1 This church is at Llandyfrydog, a small village in Twrkelin 
hundred, not far distant from Llanelian, and about three miles 
from the Bay of Dulas. St. Tyvrydog, to whom it was dedicated, 
was one of the sons of Arwystyl Glof, a saint who lived in the 
latter part of the sixth century. 

122 Giraldus Cambrensis 

The commander of the expedition, Magnus, standing on 
the prow of the foremost ship, aimed an arrow at him; 
and, although the earl was completely equipped in a 
coat of mail, and guarded in every part of his body 
except his eyes, the unlucky weapon struck his right 
eye, and, entering his brain, he fell a lifeless corpse into 
the sea. The victor, seeing him in this state, proudly 
and exultingly exclaimed, in the Danish tongue, " Leit 
loup," let him leap; and from this time the power of the 
English ceased in Anglesey. In our times, also, when 
Henry II. was leading an army into North Wales, where 
he had experienced the ill fortune of war in a narrow, 
woody pass near Coleshulle, he sent a fleet into Anglesey, 
and began to plunder the aforesaid church, and other 
sacred places. But the divine vengeance pursued him, 
for the inhabitants rushed upon the invaders, few 
against many, unarmed against armed; and having 
slain great numbers, and taken many prisoners, gained 
a most complete and bloody victory. For, as our 
Topography of Ireland testifies, that the Welsh and 
Irish are more prone to anger and revenge than any 
other nations, the saints, likewise, of those countries 
appear to be of a more vindictive nature. 

Two noble persons, and uncles of the author of this 
book, were sent thither by the king; namely, Henry, son 
of king Henry I., and uncle to king Henry II., by Nest, 
daughter of Rhys, prince of South Wales; and Robert 
Fitz-Stephen, brother to Henry, a man who in our 
days, shewing the way to others, first attacked Ireland, 
and whose fame is recorded in our Vaticinal History. 
Henry, actuated by too much valour, and ill supported, 
was pierced by a lance, and fell amongst the foremost, 
to the great concern of his attendants; and Robert, 
despairing of being able to defend himself, was badly 
wounded, and escaped with difficulty to the ships. 

There is a small island, almost adjoining to Anglesey, 
which is inhabited by hermits, living by manual labour, 
and serving God. It is remarkable that when, by the 

Itinerary Through Wales 123 

influence of human passions, any discord arises among 
them, all their provisions are devoured and infected by 
a species of small mice, with which the island abounds; 
but when the discord ceases, they are no longer molested. 
Nor is it to be wondered at, if the servants of God some- 
times disagree, since Jacob and Esau contended in the 
womb of Rebecca, and Paul and Barnabas differed ; the 
disciples also of Jesus disputed which of them should 
be the greatest, for these are the temptations of human 
infirmity ; yet virtue is often made perfect by infirmity, 
and faith is increased by tribulations. This island is 
called in Welsh, Ynys Lenach, 1 or the ecclesiastical 
island, because many bodies of saints are deposited 
there, and no woman is suffered to enter it. 

We saw in Anglesey a dog, who accidentally had lost 
his tail, and whose whole progeny bore the same defect. 
It is wonderful that nature should, as it were, conform 
itself in this particular to the accident of the father. 
We saw also a knight, named Earthbald, born in Devon- 
shire, whose father, denying the child with which his 
mother was pregnant, and from motives of jealousy 
accusing her of inconstancy, nature alone decided the 
controversy by the birth of the child, who, by a miracle, 
exhibited on his upper lip a scar, similar to one his 
father bore in consequence of a wound he had received 
from a lance in one of his military expeditions. Stephen, 
the son of Earthbald, had a similar mark, the accident 
being in a manner converted into nature. A like 
miracle of nature occurred in earl Alberic, son of Alberic 
earl of Veer, 2 whose father, during the pregnancy of his 

1 Ynys Lenach, now known by the name of Priestholme Island, 
bore also the title of Ynys Seiriol, from a saint who resided upon 
it in the sixth century. It is also mentioned by Dugdale and 
Pennant under the appellation of Insula Glannauch. 

2 Alberic de Veer, or Vere, came into England with William the 
Conqueror, and as a reward for his military services, received very 
extensive possessions and lands, particularly in the county of 
Essex. Alberic, his eldest son, was great chamberlain of England 
in the reign of king Henry I., and was killed a.d. 1140, in a popular 
tumult at London. Heiirv de Essex married one of his daughters 

i 24 Giraldus Cambrensis 

mother, the daughter of Henry of Essex, having laboured 
to procure a divorce, on account of the ignominy of her 
father, the child, when born, had the same blemish in its 
eye, as the father had got from a casual hurt. These 
defects may be entailed on the offspring, perhaps, by the 
impression made on the memory by frequent and steady 
observation; as it is reported that a queen, accustomed 
to see the picture of a negro in her chamber, unexpectedly 
brought forth a black child, and is exculpated by Quin- 
tilian, on account of the picture. In like manner it 
happened to the spotted sheep, given by Laban out of 
his flock to his nephew Jacob, and which conceived 
by means of variegated rods. 1 Nor is the child always 
affected by the mother's imagination alone, but some- 
times by that of the father; for it is well known that a 
man, seeing a passenger near him, who was convulsed 
both behind and before, on going home and telling his 
wife that he could not get the impression of this sight off 
his mind, begat a child who was affected in a similar 

named Adeliza. He enjoyed, by inheritance, the office of stan- 
dard-bearer, and behaved himself so unworthily in the military 
expedition which king Henry undertook against Owen Gwynedd, 
prince of North Wales, in the year n 57, by throwing down his 
ensign, and betaking himself to flight, that he was challenged for 
this misdemeanor by Robert de Mountford, and by him van- 
quished in single combat; whereby, according to the laws of his 
country, his life was justly forfeited. But the king interposing 
his roval mercy, spared it, but confiscated his estates, ordering 
him to be shorn a monk, and placed in the abbey of Reading. 
There appears to be some biographical error in the words of Giral- 
dus " Filia scilicet Henrici de Essexia," for by the genealogical 
accounts of the Vere and Essex families, we find that Henry de 
Essex married the daughter of the second Alberic de Vere ; whereas 
our author seems to imply, that the mother of Alberic the second 
was daughter to Henry de Essex. 

2 " And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel, 
and of the chesnut tree, and peeled white strakes in them, and 
made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set the 
rods, which he had peeled, before the flocks in the gutters in the 
watering troughs, when the flocks came to drink, that they should 
conceive when they came to drink. And the flocks conceived 
before the rods, and brought forth cattle speckled and spotted." 
Gen. xxx. 

Itinerary Through Wales 125 



On our return to Banchor from Mona, we were shown 
the tombs of prince Owen and his younger brother 
Cadwalader, 1 who were buried in a double vault before 
the high altar, although Owen, on account of his public 
incest with his cousin-german, had died excommunicated 
by the blessed martyr St. Thomas, the bishop of that see 
having been enjoined to seize a proper opportunity of 
removing his body from the church. We continued our 
journey on the sea coast, confined on one side by steep 
rocks/and by the sea on the other, towards the river 
Conwy, which preserves its waters unadulterated by 
the sea. Not far from the source of the river Conwy, at 
the head of the Eryri mountain, which on this side 
extends itself towards the north, stands Dinas Emrys, 
that is, the promontory of Ambrosius, where Merlin 2 
uttered his prophecies, whilst Vortigern was seated upon 
the bank. There were two Merlins; the one called 
Ambrosius, who prophesied in the time of king Vortigern, 

1 Owen Gwynedd, the son of Gruffydd ap Conan, died in 1169, 
and was buried at Bangor. When Baldwin, during his progress, 
visited Bangor and saw his tomb, he charged the bishop (Guy 
Ruffus) to remove the body out of the cathedral, when he had a 
fit opportunity so to do, in regard that archbishop Becket had 
excommunicated him heretofore, because he had married his first 
cousin, the daughter of Grono ap Edwyn, and that notwithstand- 
ing he had continued to live with her till she died. The bishop, 
in obedience to the charge, made a passage from the vault through 
the south wall of the church underground, and thus secretly 
shoved the body into the churchyard. Hengwrt. MSS. Cad- 
walader. brother of Owen Gwynedd, died in 1172. 

2 The Merlin here mentioned was called Ambrosius, and accord- 
ing to the Cambrian Biography flourished about the middle of the 
fifth century. Other authors say, that this reputed prophet and 
magician was the son of a Welsh nun, daughter of a king of 
Demetia, and born at Caermarthen, and that he was made king 
of West Wales by Vortigern, who then reigned in Britain. 

126 Giraldus Cambrensis 

was begotten by a demon incubus, and found at Caer- 
mardin, from which circumstance that city derived its 
name of Caermardin, or the city of Merlin; the other 
Merlin, born in Scotland, was named Celidonius, from 
the Celidonian wood in which he prophesied; and Syl- 
vester, because when engaged in martial conflict, he 
discovered in the air a terrible monster, and from that 
time grew mad, and taking shelter in a wood, passed the 
remainder of his days in a savage state. This Merlin 
lived in the time of king Arthur, and is said to have pro- 
phesied more fully and explicitly than the other. I shall 
pass over in silence what was done by the sons of Owen 
in our days, after his death, or while he was dying, who, 
from the wicked desire of reigning, totally disregarded 
the ties of fraternity; but I shall not omit mentioning 
another event which occurred likewise in our days. 
Owen, 1 son of Gruff y th, prince of North Wales, had many 
sons, but only one legitimate, namely, Iorwerth Drwyn- 
dwn, which in Welsh means flat-nosed, who had a son 
named Llewelyn. This young man, being only twelve 
years of age, began, during the period of our journey, 
to molest his uncles David and Roderic, the sons of Owen 
by Christiana, his cousin-german; and although thev 
had divided amongst themselves all North Wales, except 
the land of Conan, and although David, having married 
the sister of king Henry II., by whom he had one son, 
wa; powerfully supported by the English, yet within a 
f. w years the legitimate son, destitute of lands or money 
( >y t te aid of divine vengeance), bravely expelled from 
North Wales those who were born in public incest, 
though supported by their own wealth and by that of 

1 Owen Gwynedd " left behind him manie children gotten by 
diverse women, which were not esteemed by their mothers and 
birth, but by their prowes and valiantnesse." By his first wife, 
Gladus, the daughter of Llywarch ap Trahaern ap Caradoc, he 
had Orwerth Drwyndwn, that is, Edward with the broken nose; 
for which defect he was deemed unfit to preside over the prin- 
cipality of North Wales and was deprived of his rightful inherit- 
ance, which was seized by his brother David, who occupied it for 
the space of twenty-four years. 

Itinerary Through Wales i 27 

others, leaving them nothing but what the liberality of 
his own mind and the counsel of good men from pity 
suggested: a proof that adulterous and incestuous per- 
sons are displeasing to God. 



I must not pass over in silence the mountains called by 
the Welsh Eryri, but by the English Snowdon, or Moun- 
tains of Snow, which gradually increasing from the land 
of the sons of Conan, and extending themselves north- 
wards near Deganwy, seem to rear their lofty summits 
even to the clouds, when viewed from the opposite coast 
of Anglesey. They are said to be of so great an extent, 
that according to an ancient proverb, " As Mona could 
supply corn for all the inhabitants of Wales, so could 
the Eryri mountains afford sufficient pasture for all the 
herds, if collected together.*' Hence these lines of Virgil 
may be applied to them: 

" Et quantum longis carpent armenta diebus, 
Exigua tantum gelidus ros nocte reponet." 

" And what is cropt by day the night renews, 
Shedding refreshful stores of cooling dews." 

On the highest parts of these mountains are two lakes 
worthy of admiration. The one has a floating island in 
it, which is often driven from one side to the other by 
the force of the winds; and the shepherds behold with 
astonishment their cattle, whilst feeding, carried to the 
distant parts of the lake. A part of the bank naturally 
bound together by the roots of willows and other shrubs 
may have been broken off, and increased by the alluvion 
of the earth from the shore; and being continually 

128 Giraldus Cambrensis 

agitated by the winds, which in so elevated a situation 
blow with great violence, it cannot reunite itself firmly 
with the banks. The other lake is noted for a wonder- 
ful and singular miracle. It contains three sorts of fish 
eels, trout, and perch, all of which have only one eye, 
the left being wanting ; but if the curious reader should 
demand of me the explanation of so extraordinary a 
circumstance, I cannot presume to satisfy him. It is 
remarkable also, that in two places in Scotland, one 
near the eastern, the other near the western sea, the fish 
called mullets possess the same defect, having no left 
eye. According to vulgar tradition, these mountains are 
frequented by an eagle who, perching on a fatal stone 
every fifth holiday, in order to satiate her hunger with 
the carcases of the slain, is said to expect war on that 
same day, and to have almost perforated the stone by 
cleaning and sharpening her beak. 



Having crossed the river Conwy, 1 or rather an arm of 
the sea, under Deganwy, leaving the Cistercian monas- 
tery of Conwy 2 on the western bank of the river to our 
right hand, we arrived at Ruthlan, a noble castle on the 

1 The travellers pursuing their journey along the sea coast, 
crossed the asstuary of the river Conway under Deganwy, a for- 
tress of very remote antiquity. 

2 At this period the Cistercian monastery of Conway was in its 
infancy, for its foundation has been attributed to Llewelyn ap 
Iorwerth, in the year 1185, (only three years previous to Baldwin's 
visitation,) who endowed it with very extensive possessions and 
singular privileges. Like Stratfiur, this abbey was the repository 
of the national records, and the mausoleum of many of its princes. 

Itinerary Through Wales 129 

river Cloyd, belonging to David, the eldest son of Owen/ 
where, at the earnest invitation of David himself, we 
were handsomely entertained that night. 

There is a spring not far from Ruthlan, in the province 
of Tegengel, 2 which not only regularly ebbs and flows 
like the sea, twice in twenty-four hours, but at other 
times frequently rises and falls both by night and day. 
Trogus Pompeius says, " that there is a town of the 
Garamantes, where there is a spring which is hot and 
cold alternately by day and night." 3 

Many persons in the morning having been persuaded 
to dedicate themselves to the service of Christ, we pro- 
ceeded from Ruthlan to the small cathedral church of 
Lanelwy; 4 from whence (the archbishop having cele- 
brated mass) we continued our journey through a 
country rich in minerals of silver, where money is sought 
in the bowels of the earth, to the little cell of Basin- 
werk, 5 where we passed the night. The following day 
we traversed a long quicksand, and not without some 
degree of apprehension, leaving the woody district of 
Coleshulle, 6 or hill of coal, on our right hand, where 
Henry II., who in our time, actuated by youthful and 
indiscreet ardour, made a hostile irruption into Wales, 
and presuming to pass through that narrow and woody 
defile, experienced a signal defeat, and a very heavy loss 

'- [David was the illegitimate son of Owen Gwynedd, and had 
dispossessed his brother, Iorwerth Drwyndwn.l 

2 This ebbing spring in the province of Tegeingl, or Flintshire, 
has been placed by the old annotator on Giraldus at Kilken, which 
Humphrey Llwyd, in his Breviary, also mentions. 

3 See before, the Topography of Ireland, Distinc. ii. c. 7. 

4 Saint Asaph, in size, though not in revenues, may deserve the 
epithet of " paupercula " attached to it by Giraldus. From its 
situation near the banks of the river Elwy, it derived the name of 
Llanelwy, or the church upon the Elwy. 

5 Leaving Llanelwy, or St. Asaph, the archbishop proceeded to 
the little cell of Basinwerk, where he and his attendants passed 
the night. It is situated at a short distance from Holywell, on a 
gentle eminence above a valley, watered by the copious springs 
that issue from St. Winefred's well, and on the borders of a marsh, 
which extends towards the coast of Cheshire. 

6 Coleshill is a township in Holywell parish, Flintshire, which 
gives name to a hundred, and was so called from its abundance of 
fossil fuel. Pennant, vol. i. p. 42. 


130 Giraldus Cambrensis 

of men. 1 The aforesaid king invaded Wales three times 
with an army; first, North Wales at the above-men- 
tioned place; secondly, South Wales, by the sea-coast 
of Glamorgan and Goer, penetrating as far as Caer- 
marddin and Pencadair, and returning by Ellennith and 
Melenith; and thirdly, the country of Powys, near 
Oswaldestree ; but in all these expeditions the king was un- 
successful, because he placed no confidence in the prudent 
and well-informed chieftains of the country, but was 
principally advised by people remote from the marches, 
and ignorant of the manners and customs of the natives. 
Injevery expedition, as the artificer is to be trusted 
in his trade, so the advice of those people should be 
consulted, who, by a long residence in the country, are 
become conversant with the manners and customs of 
the natives ; and to whom it is of high importance that 
the power of the hostile nation, with whom, by a long 
and continued warfare, they have contracted an im- 
placable enmity and hatred, should be weakened or 
destroyed, as we have set forth in our Vaticinal History. 

In this wood of Coleshulle, a young Welshman was 
killed while passing through the king's army ; the grey- 
hound who accompanied him did not desert his master's 
corpse for eight days, though without food; but faith- 
fully defended it from the attacks of dogs, wolves, and 
birds of prey, with a wonderful attachment. What son 
to his father, what Nisus to Euryalus, what Polynices 
to Tydeus, what Orestes to Pylades, would have shewn 
such an affectionate regard? As a mark of favour to 
the dog, who was almost starved to death, the English, 
although bitter enemies to the Welsh, ordered the body, 
now nearly putrid, to be deposited in the ground with 
the accustomed offices of humanity. 

1 The three military expeditions of king Henry into Wales, here 
mentioned, were a.d. 1157, the first expedition into North Wales; 
a.d. 1162, the second expedition into South Wales; a.d. 1165, the 
third expedition into North Wales. In the first, the king was 
obliged to retreat with considerable loss, and the king's standard- 
bearer, Henry de Essex, was accused of having in a cowardly 
manner abandoned the royal standard and led to a serious disaster. 

Itinerary Through Wales 131 



Having crossed the river Dee below Chester, (which 
the Welsh call Doverdwy), on the third day before 
Easter, or the day of absolution (holy Thursday), we 
reached Chester. As the river Wye towards the south 
separates Wales from England, so the Dee near Chester 
forms the northern boundary. The inhabitants of these 
parts assert, that the waters of this river change their 
fords every month, and, as it inclines more towards 
England or Wales, they can, with certainty, prognos- 
ticate which nation will be successful or unfortunate 
during the year. This river derives its origin from the 
lake Penmelesmere, 1 and, although it abounds with 
salmon, yet none are found in the lake. It is also re- 
markable, that this river is never swollen by rains, but 
often rises by the violence of the winds. 

Chester boasts of being the burial-place of Henry, 2 
a Roman emperor, who, after having imprisoned his 
carnal and spiritual father, pope Paschal, gave himself 
up to penitence ; and, becoming a voluntary exile in this 
country, ended his days in solitary retirement. It is 
also asserted, that the remains of Harold are here de- 
posited. He was the last of the Saxon kings in England, 
and as a punishment for his perjury, was defeated in the 
battle of Hastings, fought against the Normans. Hav- 
ing received many wounds, and lost his left eye by an 

1 The lake of Penmelesmere, or Pymplwy meer, or the meer of 
the five parishes adjoining the lake, is, in modern days, better 
known by the name of Bala Pool. The assertion made by 
Giraldus, of salmon never being found in the lake of Bala, is not 
founded on truth. 

2 Giraldus seems to have been mistaken respecting the burial- 
place of the emperor Henry V., for he died May 23, a.d. 1125, at 
Utrecht, and his body was conveyed to Spire for interment. 

132 Giraldus Cambrensis 

arrow in that engagement, he is said to have escaped to 
these parts, where, in holy conversation, leading the life 
of an anchorite, and being a constant attendant at one 
of the churches of this city, he is believed to have ter- 
minated his days happily. 1 The truth of these two cir- 
cumstances was declared (and not before known) by 
the dying confession of each party. We saw here, what 
appeared novel to us, cheese made of deer's milk; for 
the countess and her mother keeping tame deer, pre- 
sented to the archbishop three small cheeses made from 
their milk. 

In this same country was produced, in our time, a cow 
partaking of the nature of a stag, resembling its mother 
in the fore parts and the stag in its hips, legs, and feet, 
and having the skin and colour of the stag; but, par- 
taking more of the nature of the domestic than of the 
wild animal, it remained with the herd of cattle. A 
bitch also was pregnant by a monkey, and produced a 
litter of whelps resembling a monkey before, and the dog 
behind; which the rustic keeper of the military hall 
seeing with astonishment and abhorrence, immediately 
killed with the stick he carried in his hand; thereby 
incurring the severe resentment and anger of his lord, 
when the latter became acquainted with the circum- 

In our time, also, a woman was born in Chester with- 
out hands, to whom nature had supplied a remedy for 
that defect by the flexibility and delicacy of the joints 
of her feet, with which she could sew, or perform any 
work with thread or scissors, as well as other women. 

1 This legend, which represents king Harold as having escaped 
from the battle of Hastings, and as having lived years after as a 
hermit on the borders of Wales, is mentioned by other old writers, 
and has been adopted as true by some modern writers. 

Itinerary Through Wales 133 



The feast of Easter having been observed with due 
solemnity, and many persons, by the exhortations of the 
archbishop, signed with the cross, we directed our way 
from Chester to the White Monastery, 1 and from thence 
towards Oswaldestree ; where, on the very borders of 
Powys, we were met by Gruffydd son of Madoc, and 
Elissa, princes of that country, and many others ; some 
few of whom having been persuaded to take the cross 
(for several of the multitude had been previously signed 
by Reiner, 2 the bishop of that place), Gruffydd, prince of 
the district, publicly adjured, in the presence of the 
archbishop, his cousin-german, Angharad, daughter of 
prince Owen, whom, according to the vicious custom of 
the country, he had long considered as his wife. We 
slept at Oswaldestree, or the tree of St. Oswald, and 
were most sumptuously entertained after the English 
manner, by William Fitz-Alan, 3 a noble and liberal 

1 Some difficulty occurs in fixing the situation of the Album 
Monasterium, mentioned in the text, as three churches in the 
county of Shropshire bore that appellation; the first at Whit- 
church, the second at Oswestry, the third at Alberbury. The 
narrative of our author is so simple, and corresponds so well with 
the topography of the country through which they passed, that I 
think no doubt ought to be entertained about the course of their 
route. From Chester they directed their way to the White Monas- 
tery, or Whitchurch, and from thence towards Oswestry, where 
they slept, and were entertained by William Fitz-Alan, after the 
English mode of hospitality. 

2 By the Latin context it would appear that Reiner was bishop 
of Oswestree: " Ab episcopo namque loci illius Reinerio multitudo 
fuerat ante signata." Reiner succeeded Adam in the bishopric 
of St. Asaph in the year 1186, and died in 1220. He had a resi- 
dence near Oswestry, at which place, previous to the arrival of 
Baldwin, he had signed many of the people with the cross. 

3 In the time, of William the Conqueror, Alan, the son of Flathald, 
or Flaald, obtained, by the gift of that king, the castle of Os- 

I 34 Giraldus Cambrensis 

young man. A short time before, whilst Reiner was 
preaching, a robust youth being earnestly exhorted to 
follow the example of his companions in taking the 
cross, answered, " I will not follow your advice until, 
with this lance which I bear in my hand, I shall have 
avenged the death of my lord," alluding to Owen, son 
of Madoc, a distinguished warrior, who had been mali- 
ciously and treacherously slain by Owen Cyfeilioc, his 
cousin-german ; and while he was thus venting his anger 
and revenge, and violently brandishing his lance, it 
suddenly snapped asunder, and fell disjointed in several 
pieces to the ground, the handle only remaining in his 
hand. Alarmed and astonished at this omen, which he 
considered as a certain signal for his taking the cross, he 
voluntarily offered his services. 

In this third district of Wales, called Powys, there are 
most excellent studs put apart for breeding, and deriving 
their origin from some fine Spanish horses, which Robert 
de Belesme, 1 earl of Shrewsbury, brought into this 
country: on which account the horses sent from hence 
are remarkable for their majestic proportion and as- 
tonishing fleetness. 

Here king Henry II. entered Powys, in our days, 
upon an expensive, though fruitless, expedition. 2 Hav- 
ing dismembered the hostages whom he had previously 
received, he was compelled, by a sudden and violent fall 

waldestre, with the territory adjoining, which belonged to Mere- 
dith ap Blethyn, a Briton. This Alan, having married the 
daughter and heir to Warine, sheriff of Shropshire, had in her 
right the barony of the same Warine. To him succeeded William, 
his son and heir. He married Isabel de Say, daughter and heir to 
Helias de Say, niece to Robert earl of Gloucester, lady of Clun, 
and left issue by her, William, his son and successor, who, in the 
19th Henry II., or before, departed this life, leaving William Fitz- 
Alan his son and heir, who is mentioned in the text. 

1 Robert de Belesme, earl of Shrewsbury, was son of Roger de 
Montgomery, who led the centre division of the army in that 
memorable battle which secured to William the conquest of Eng- 
land, and for his services was advanced to the earldoms of Arundel 
and Shrewsbury. 

2 This expedition into Wales took place a.d. 1165, and has been 
already spoken of. 

Itinerary Through Wales 135 

of rain, to retreat with his army. On the preceding day, 
the chiefs of the English army had burned some of the 
Welsh churches, with the villages and churchyards; 
upon which the sons of Owen the Great, with their light- 
armed troops, stirred up the resentment of their father 
and the other princes of the country, declaring that they 
would never in future spare any churches of the English. 
When nearly the whole army was on the point of assent- 
ing to this determination, Owen, a man of distinguished 
wisdom and moderation the tumult being in some 
degree subsided thus spake: " My opinion, indeed, by 
no means agrees with yours, for we ought to rejoice at 
this conduct of our adversary ; for, unless supported by 
divine assistance, we are far inferior to the English ; and 
they, by their behaviour, have made God their enemy, 
who is able most powerfully to avenge both himself 
and us. We therefore most devoutly promise God that 
we will henceforth pay greater reverence than ever to 
churches and holy places." After which, the English 
army, on the following night, experienced (as has before 
been related) the divine vengeance. 

From Oswaldestree, we directed our course towards 
Shrewsbury (Salopesburia), which is nearly surrounded 
by the river Severn, where we remained a few days to 
rest and refresh ourselves ; and where many people were 
induced to take the cross, through the elegant sermons 
of the archbishop and archdeacon. We also excom- 
municated Owen de Cevelioc, because he alone, amongst 
the Welsh princes, did not come to meet the archbishop 
with his people. Owen was a man of more fluent speech 
than his contemporary princes, and was conspicuous for 
the good management of his territory. Having generally 
favoured the royal cause, and opposed the measures of 
his own chieftains, he had contracted a great familiarity 
with king Henry II. Being with the king at table at 
Shrewsbury, Henry, as a mark of peculiar honour and 
regard, sent him one of his own loaves ; he immediately 
brake it into small pieces, like alms-bread, and having, 

136 Giraldus Cambrensis 

like an almoner, placed them at a distance from him, 
he took them up one by one and ate them. The king 
requiring an explanation of this proceeding, Owen, with 
a smile, replied, " I thus follow the example of my lord; " 
keenly alluding to the avaricious disposition of the king, 
who was accustomed to retain for a long time in his own 
hands the vacant ecclesiastical benefices. 

It is to be remarked that three princes, 1 distinguished 
for their justice, wisdom, and princely moderation, ruled, 

1 The princes mentioned by Giraldus as most distinguished in 
North and South Wales, and most celebrated in his time, were, 1. 
Owen, son of Gruffydd, in North Wales; 2. Meredyth, son of 
Gruffydd, in South Wales; 3. Owen de Cyfeilioc, in Powys; 4. 
Cadwalader, son of Gruffydd, in North Wales; 5. Gruffydd of 
Maelor, in Powys; 6. Rhys, son of Gruffydd, in South Wales; 7. 
David, son of Owen, in North Wales; 8. Howel, son of Iorwerth, 
in South Wales. 

1. Owen Gwynedd, son of Gruffydd ap Conan, died in n 69, 
having governed his country well and worthily for the space of 
thirty-two years. He was fortunate and victorious in all his 
affairs, and never took any enterprise in hand but he achieved it. 
2. Meredyth ap Gruffydd ap Rhys, lord of Caerdigan and Stratywy, 
died in 1153, at the early age of twenty-five; a worthy knight, 
fortunate in battle, just and liberal to all men. 3. Owen Cyfeilioc 
was the son of Gruffydd ap Meredyth ap Blethyn, who was 
created lord of Powys by Henry I., and died about the year 1197, 
leaving his principality to his son Gwenwynwyn, from whom that 
part of Powys was called Powys Gwenwynwyn, to distinguish it 
from Powvs Vadoc, the possession of the lords of Bromfield. The 
poems ascribed to him possess great spirit, and prove that he was, 
as Giraldus terms him, " lingua? dicacis," in its best sense. 4. 
Cadwalader, son of Gruffydd ap Conan, prince of North Wales, 
died in 1172. 5. Gruffydd of Maelor was son of Madoc ap Mere- 
dyth ap Blethyn, prince of Powys, who died at Winchester in 
1160. " This man was ever the king of England's friend, and was 
one that feared God, and relieved the poor: his body was con- 
veyed honourably to Powys, and buried at Myvod " His son 
Gruffydd succeeded him in the lordship of Bromfield, and died 
about the year 1190. 6. Rhys ap Gruffydd, or the lord Rhys, 
was son of Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Tewdwr, who died in 1137. The 
ancient writers have been very profuse in their praises of this 
celebrated prince. 7. David, son of Owen Gwynedd, who, on 
the death of his father, forcibly seized the principality of North 
Wales, slaving his brother Howel in battle, and setting aside the 
claims of the lawful inheritor of the throne, Iorwerth Trwyndwn, 
whose son, Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, in 1194, recovered his inherit- 
ance. 8. Howel, son of Iorwerth of Caerleon, appears to have 
been distinguished chiefly by his ferocity. 

Itinerary Through Wales 137 

in our time, over the three provinces of Wales: Owen, 
son of Gruffydd, in Venedotia, or North Wales; Mere- 
dyth, his grandson, son of Gruffydd, who died early in 
life, in South Wales; and Owen de Cevelioc, in Powys. 
But two other princes were highly celebrated for their 
generosity; Cadwalader, son of Gruffydd, in North 
Wales, and Gruffydd of Maelor, son of Madoc, in Powys ; 
and Rhys, son of Gruffydd, in South Wales, deserved 
commendation for his enterprising and independent 
spirit. In North Wales, David, son of Owen, and on 
the borders of Morgannoc, in South Wales, Howel, son 
of Iorwerth of Caerleon, maintained their good faith and 
credit, by observing a strict neutrality between the 
Welsh and English. 



From Shrewsbury, we continued our journey towards 
Wenloch, by a narrow and rugged way, called Evil- 
street, where, in our time, a Jew, travelling with the 
archdeacon of the place, whose name was Sin {Pecca- 
tum), and the dean, whose name was Devil, towards 
Shrewsbury, hearing the archdeacon say, that his arch- 
deaconry began at a place called Evil-street, and ex- 
tended as far as Mal-pas, towards Chester, pleasantly 
told them, " It would be a miracle, if his fate brought 
him safe out of a country, whose archdeacon was Sin, 
whose dean the devil; the entrance to the archdeaconry 
Evil-street, and its exit Bad-pass." x 

From Wenloch, we passed by the little cell of Brum- 
1 Malpas in Cheshire. 


Giraldus Cambrensis 

feld, 1 the noble castle of Ludlow, through Leominster to 
Hereford, leaving on our right hand the districts of 
Melenyth and Elvel ; thus (describing as it were a circle) 
we came to the same point from which we had com- 
menced this laborious journey through Wales. 

During this long and laudable legation, about three 
thousand men were signed with the cross; well skilled 
in the use of arrows and lances, and versed in military 
matters; impatient to attack the enemies of the faith; 
profitably and happily engaged for the service of Christ, 
if the expedition of the Holy Cross had been forwarded 
with an alacrity equal to the diligence and devotion with 
which the forces were collected. But by the secret, 
though never unjust, judgment of God, the journey of 
the Roman emperor was delayed, and dissensions arose 
amongst our kings. The premature and fatal hand of 
death arrested the king of Sicily, who had been the fore- 
most sovereign in supplying the holy land with corn and 
provisions during the period of their distress. In con- 
sequence of his death, violent contentions arose amongst 
our princes respecting their several rights to the king- 
dom; and the faithful beyond sea suffered severely by 
want and famine, surrounded on all sides by enemies, 
and most anxiously waiting for supplies. But as 
affliction may strengthen the understanding, as gold is 
tried by fire, and virtue may be confirmed in weakness, 
these things are suffered to happen; since adversity (as 
Gregory testifies) opposed to good prayers is the proba- 
tion of virtue, not the judgment of reproof. For who 
does not know how fortunate a circumstance it was that 

1 It appears that a small college of prebendaries, or secular 
canons, resided at Bromfield in the reign of king Henry I. ; Osbert, 
the prior, being recorded as a witness to a deed made before the 
year 1148. In 1155, they became Benedictines, and surrendered 
their church and lands to the abbey of St. Peter's at Gloucester, 
whereupon a prior and monks were placed there, and continued 
till the dissolution. An ancient gateway and some remains of 
the priory still testify the existence of this religious house, the 
local situation of which, near the confluence of the rivers Oney 
and Teme, has been accurately described by Leland. 

Itinerary Through Wales 139 

Paul went to Italy, and suffered so dreadful a ship- 
wreck? But the ship of his heart remained unbroken 
amidst the waves of the sea. 



Let it not be thought superfluous to describe the 
exterior and inward qualities of that person, the parti- 
culars of whose embassy, and as it were holy peregrina- 
tion, we have briefly and succinctly related. He was a 
man of a dark complexion, of an open and venerable 
countenance, of a moderate stature, a good person, and 
rather inclined to be thin than corpulent. He was a 
modest and grave man, of so great abstinence and con- 
tinence, that ill report scarcely ever presumed to say any 
thing against him; a man of few words; slow to anger, 
temperate and moderate in all his passions and affec- 
tions; swift to hear, slow to speak; he was from an 
early age well instructed in literature, and bearing the 
yoke of the Lord from his youth, by the purity of his 
morals became a distinguished luminary to the people; 
wherefore voluntarily resigning the honour of the arch- 

1 Baldwin was born at Exeter, in Devonshire, of a low family, 
but being endowed by nature with good abilities, applied them 
to an early cultivation of sacred and profane literature. His 
good conduct procured him the friendship of Bartholomew 
bishop of Exeter, who promoted him to the archdeaconry of that 
see; resigning this preferment, he assumed the cowl, and in a 
few years became abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Ford. In 
the year 1180, he was advanced to the bishopric of Worcester, 
and in 11 84, translated to the archiepiscopal see of Canterbury. 
In the year 1188, he made his progress through Wales, preaching 
with fervour the service of the Cross; to which holy cause he fell 
a sacrifice in the year 1190, having religiously, honourably, and 
charitably ended his days in the Holy Land. 

140 Giraldus Cambrensis 

levite, 1 which he had canonically obtained, and despis- 
ing the pomps and vanities of the world, he assumed 
with holy devotion the habit of the Cistercian order; 
and as he had been formerly more than a monk in his 
manners, within the space of a year he was appointed 
abbot, and in a few years afterwards preferred first to 
a bishopric, and then to an archbishopric; and having 
been found faithful in a little, had authority given him 
over much. But, as Cicero says, " Nature had made 
nothing entirely perfect; " when he came into power, 
not laying aside that sweet innate benignity which he 
had always shewn when a private man, sustaining his 
people with his staff rather than chastising them with 
rods, feeding them as it were with the milk of a mother, 
and not making use of the scourges of the father, he in- 
curred public scandal for his remissness. So great was 
his lenity that he put an end to all pastoral rigour; 
and was a better monk than abbot, a better bishop 
than archbishop. Hence pope Urban addressed him; 
" Urban, servant of the servants of God, to the most 
fervent monk, to the warm abbot, to the luke-warm 
bishop, to the remiss archbishop, health, etc." 

This second successor to the martyr Thomas, having 
heard of the insults offered to our Saviour and his holy 
cross, was amongst the first who signed themselves with 
the cross, and manfully assumed the office of preaching 
its service both at home and in the most remote parts of 
the kingdom. Pursuing his journey to the Holy Land, 
he embarked on board a vessel at Marseilles, and landed 
safely in a port at Tyre, from whence he proceeded to 
Acre, where he found our army both attacking and 
attacked, our forces dispirited by the defection of the 
princes, and thrown into a state of desolation and 
despair; fatigued by long expectation of supplies, 
greatly afflicted by hunger and want, and distempered 
by the inclemency of the air : finding his end approach- 

1 Giraldus here alludes to the dignity of archdeacon, which 
Baldwin had obtained in the church of Exeter. 

Itinerary Through Wales 141 

ing, he embraced his fellow subjects, relieving their 
wants by liberal acts of charity and pious exhortations, 
and by the tenor of his life and actions strengthened 
them in the faith; whose ways, life, and deeds, may he 
who is alone the " way, the truth, and the life," the way 
without offence, the truth without doubt, and the life 
without end, direct in truth, together with the whole 
body of the faithful, and for the glory of his name and 
the palm of faith which he hath planted, teach their 
hands to war, and their fingers to fight. 




I, who, at the expense of three years' labour, arranged, 
a short time ago, in three parts, the Topography of Ire- 
land, with a description of its natural curiosities, and 
who afterwards, by two years' study, completed in two 
parts the Vaticinal History of its Conquest; and who, 
by publishing the Itinerary of the Holy Man (Baldwin) 
through Cambria, prevented his laborious mission from 
perishing in obscurity, do now propose, in the present 
little work, to give some account of this my native coun- 
try, and to describe the genius of its inhabitants, so 
entirely distinct from that of other nations. And this 
production of my industry I have determined to dedicate 
to you, illustrious Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, 
as I before ascribed to you my Itinerary; considering 
you as a man no less distinguished by your piety, than 
conspicuous for your learning; though so humble an 
offering may possibly be unworthy the acceptance of a 
personage who, from his eminence, deserves to be pre- 
sented with works of the greatest merit. 

Some, indeed, object to this my undertaking, and, 
apparently from motives of affection, compare me to a 
painter, who, rich in colours, and like another Zeuxis, 
eminent in his art, is endeavouring with all his skill and 
industry to give celebrity to a cottage, or to some other 
contemptible object, whilst the world is anxiously ex- 
pecting from his hand a temple or a palace. Thus they 
wonder that I, amidst the many great and striking sub- 

145 k 


First Preface 

jects which the world presents, should choose to describe 
and to adorn, with all the graces of composition, such 
remote corners of the earth as Ireland and Wales. 

Others again, reproaching me with greater severity, 
say, that the gifts which have been bestowed upon me 
from above, ought not to be wasted upon these insigni- 
ficant objects, nor lavished in a vain display of learning 
on the commendation of princes, who, from their ignor- 
ance and want of liberality, have neither taste to appre- 
ciate, nor hearts to remunerate literary excellence. And 
they further add, that every faculty which emanates 
from the Deity, ought rather to be applied to the illus- 
tration of celestial objects, and to the exaltation of his 
glory, from whose abundance all our talents have been 
received ; every faculty (say they) ought to be employed 
in praising him from whom, as from a perennial source, 
every perfect gift is derived, and from whose bounty 
everything which is offered with sincerity obtains an 
ample reward. But since excellent histories of other 
countries have been composed and published by writers 
of eminence, I have been induced, by the love I bear to 
my country and to posterity, to believe that I should 
perform neither an useless nor an unacceptable service, 
were I to unfold the hidden merits of my native land; 
to rescue from obscurity those glorious actions which have 
been hitherto imperfectly described, and to bring into 
repute, by my method of treating it, a subject till now 
regarded as contemptible. 

What indeed could my feeble and unexercised efforts 
add to the histories of the destruction of Troy, Thebes, 
or Athens, or to the conquest of the shores of Latium? 
Besides, to do what has been already done, is, in fact, 
to be doing nothing; I have, therefore, thought it 
more eligible to apply my industry to the arrangement 
of the history of my native country, hitherto almost 
wholly overlooked by strangers; but interesting to my 
relations and countrymen; and from these small begin- 
nings to aspire by degrees to works of a nobler cast. 

First Preface 147 

From these inconsiderable attempts, some idea may be 
formed with what success, should Fortune afford an 
opportunity, I am likely to treat matters of greater im- 
portance. For although some things should be made 
our principal objects, whilst others ought not to be 
wholly neglected, I may surely be allowed to exercise 
the powers of my youth, as yet untaught and unex- 
perienced, in pursuits of this latter nature, lest by habit 
I should feel a pleasure in indolence and in sloth, the 
parent of vice. 

I have therefore employed these studies as a kind of 
introduction to the glorious treasures of that most 
excellent of the sciences, which alone deserves the name 
of science; which alone can render us wise to rule and 
to instruct mankind; which alone the other sciences 
follow, as attendants do their queen. Laying therefore 
in my youth the foundations of so noble a structure, it 
is my intention, if God will assist me and prolong my life, 
to reserve my maturer years for composing a treatise 
upon so perfect, so sacred a subject: for according to 
the poet, 

" Ardua quippe fides robustos exigit annos; " 
" The important concerns of faith require a mind in its full vigour; " 

I may be permitted to indulge myself for a short time in 
other pursuits ; but in this I should wish not only to con- 
tinue, but to die. 

But before I enter on this important subject, I demand 
a short interval, to enable me to lay before the public 
my Treatise on the Instruction of a Prince, which has 
been so frequently promised, as well as the Description 
of Wales, which is now before me, and the Topography 
of Britain. 

Of all the British writers, Gildas alone appears to me 
(as often as the course of my subject leads me to consult 
him) worthy of imitation; for by committing to paper 
the things which he himself saw and knew, and by 
declaring rather than describing the desolation of his 

i 4 8 

First Preface 

country, he has compiled a history more remarkable for 
its truth than for its elegance. 

Giraldus therefore follows Gildas, whom he wishes 
he could copy in his life and manners; becoming an 
imitator of his wisdom rather than of his eloquence 
of his mind rather than of his writings of his zeal rather 
than of his style of his life rather than of his language. 



When, amidst various literary pursuits, I first applied 
my mind to the compilation of history, I determined, 
lest I should appear ungrateful to my native land, to 
describe, to the best of my abilities, my own country 
and its adjoining regions; and afterwards, under God's 
guidance, to proceed to a description of more distant 
territories. But since some leading men (whom we have 
both seen and known) show so great a contempt for 
literature, that they immediately shut up within their 
book-cases the excellent works with which they are pre- 
sented, and thus doom them, as it were, to a perpetual 
imprisonment; I entreat you, illustrious Prelate, to 
prevent the present little work, which will shortly be 
delivered to you, from perishing in obscurity. And be- 
cause this, as well as my former productions, though of 
no transcendent merit, may hereafter prove to many a 
source of entertainment and instruction, I entreat you 
generously to order it to be made public, by which it will 
acquire reputation. And I shall consider myself suffi- 
ciently rewarded for my trouble, if, withdrawing for a 
while from your religious and secular occupations, you 
would kindly condescend to peruse this book, or, at 
least, give it an attentive hearing; for in times like these, 
when no one remunerates literary productions, I neither 
desire nor expect any other recompense. Not that it 
would appear in any way inconsistent, however there 
exists among men of rank a kind of conspiracy against 
authors, if a prelate so eminently conspicuous for his 


150 Second Preface 

virtues, for his abilities, both natural and acquired, for 
irreproachable morals, and for munificence, should dis- 
tinguish himself likewise by becoming the generous and 
sole patron of literature. To comprise your merits in 
a few words, the lines of Martial addressed to Trajan, 
whilst serving under Dioclesian, may be deservedly 
applied to you: 

" Laudari debes quoniam sub principe duro, 
Temporibusque malis, ausus es esse bonus." 

And those also of Virgil to Mecaenas, which extol the 
humanity of that great man : 

" Omnia cum possis tanto tam clarus amico, 
Te sensit nemo posse nocere tamen." 

Many indeed remonstrate against my proceedings, and 
those particularly who call themselves my friends insist 
that, in consequence of my violent attachment to study, 
I pay no attention to the concerns of the world, or to the 
interests of my family ; and that, on this account, I shall 
experience a delay in my promotion to worldly dignities ; 
that the influence of authors, both poets and historians, 
has long since ceased ; that the respect paid to literature 
vanished with literary princes; and that in these de- 
generate days very different paths lead to honours and 
opulence. I allow all this, I readily allow it, and ac- 
quiesce in the truth. For the unprincipled and covetous 
attach themselves to the court, the churchmen to their 
books, and the ambitious to the public offices, but as 
every man is under the influence of some darling passion, 
so the love of letters and the study of eloquence have 
from my infancy had for me peculiar charms of attrac- 
tion. Impelled by this thirst for knowledge, I have 
carried my researches into the mysterious works of 
nature farther than the generality of my contemporaries, 
and for the benefit of posterity have rescued fronij 
oblivion the remarkable events of my own times. But 
this object was not to be secured without an indefatig- 

Second Preface 1 5 1 

able, though at the same time an agreeable, exertion ; for 
an accurate investigation of every particular is attended 
with much difficulty. It is difficult to produce an 
orderly account of the investigation and discovery of 
truth; it is difficult to preserve from the beginning to 
the end a connected relation unbroken by irrelevant 
matter; and it is difficult to render the narration no less 
elegant in the diction, than instructive in its matter, for 
in prosecuting the series of events, the choice of happy 
expressions is equally perplexing, as the search after 
them is painful. Whatever is written requires the most 
intense thought, and every expression should be care- 
fully polished before it be submitted to the public eye; 
for, by exposing itself to the examination of the present 
and of future ages, it must necessarily undergo the criti- 
cism not only of the acute, but also of the dissatisfied, 
reader. Words merely uttered are soon forgotten, and 
the admiration or disgust which they occasioned is no 
more; but writings once published are never lost, and 
remain as lasting memorials either of the glory or of 
the disgrace of the author. Hence the observation of 
Seneca, that the malicious attention of the envious 
reader dwells with no less satisfaction on a faulty than 
on an elegant expression, and is as anxious to discover 
what it may ridicule, as what it may commend; as the 
poet also observes: 

" Discit enim citius meminitque libentius illud 
Quod quis deridet, quam quod probat et veneratur." 

Among the pursuits, therefore, most worthy of com- 
mendation, this holds by no means the lowest rank; for 
history, as the moral philosopher declares, " is the record 
of antiquity, the testimony of ages, the light of truth, 
the soul of memory, the mistress of conduct, and the 
herald of ancient times." 

This study is the more delightful, as it is more honour- 
able to produce works worthy of being quoted than to 
quote the works of others; as it is more desirable to be 

152 Second Preface 

the author of compositions which deserve to be admired 
than to be esteemed a good judge of the writings of other 
men; as it is more meritorious to be the just object of 
other men's commendations than to be considered an 
adept in pointing out the merits of others. On these 
pleasing reflections I feed and regale myself; for I would 
rather resemble Jerome than Croesus, and I prefer to 
riches themselves the man who is capable of despising 
them. With these gratifying ideas I rest contented and 
delighted, valuing moderation more than intemperance, 
and an honourable sufficiency more than superfluity; 
for intemperance and superfluity produce their own 
destruction, but their opposite virtues never perish; the 
former vanish, but the latter, like eternity, remain for 
ever; in short, I prefer praise to lucre, and reputation 
to riches. 




I. Length and Breadth of Wales, the Nature of its Soil, 

and the Three Remaining Tribes of Britons . 155 

II. Of the Ancient Division of Wales into Three Parts 156 

III. Genealogy of the Princes of Wales . . .157 

IV. Cantreds Royal Palaces Cathedrals . . 158 
V. Mountains and Rivers of Wales . . .159 

VI. Concerning the Pleasantness and Fertility of Wales 163 

VII. Origin of the Names Cambria and Wales . .164 

VIII. Concerning the Nature, Manners, and Dress, the 

Boldness, Agility, and Courage of this Nation 166 

IX. Their Sober Supper and Frugality . . .168 

X. Their Hospitality and Liberality . . . 168 

XI. Concerning the cutting of their Hair, their Care of 

their Teeth, and Shaving of their Beards . 170 

XII. Their Quickness and Sharpness of Understanding 171 

XIII. Their Symphonies and Songs .... 174 

XIV. Their Wit and Pleasantry . . . 175 

XV. Their Boldness and Confidence in Speaking . 177 

XVI. Concerning the Soothsayers of this Nation, and 

Persons as it were possessed . . .179 

^XVII. Their Love of High Birth and Ancient Genealogy 183 

XVIII. Their Ancient Faith, Love of Christianity, and De- 185 
votion ....... 


154 Contents 



I. Concerning the Inconstancy and Instability of this 
Nation, and their Want of Reverence for Good 
Faith and Oaths 189 

II. Their living by Plunder, and Disregard of the Bonds 

of Peace and Friendship .... 190 

III. Their Deficiency in Battle, and Base and Dishon- 

ourable Flight ...... 192 

IV. Their Ambitious Seizure of Lands, and Dissensions 

among Brothers ..... 193 

V. Their great Exaction, and Want of Moderation . 194 

VI. Concerning the Crime of Incest, and the Abuse of 

Churches by Succession and Participation . 195 

VII. Their Sins, and the consequent Loss of Britain and 

of Troy ....... 196 

VIII. In what Manner this Nation is to be overcome . 198 

IX. In what Manner Wales, when conquered, should be 

governed ....... 202 

X. In what Manner this Nation may resist and revolt 204 
Index .......... 207 





Cambria, which, by a corrupt and common term, though 
less proper, is in modern times called Wales, is about 
two hundred miles long and one hundred broad. The 
length from Port Gordber x in Anglesey to Port Eskewin 2 
in Monmouthshire is eight days' journey in extent; the 
breadth from Porth Mawr, 3 or the great Port of St. 
David's, to Ryd-helic, 4 which in Latin means Vadum 
salicis, or the Ford of the Willow, and in English is called 
Willow-forde, is four days' journey. It is a country very 
strongly defended by high mountains, deep valleys, ex- 
tensive woods, rivers, and marshes ; insomuch that from 

1 Port Gordber, written Gordwr by Humphrey Lhwyd in his 
Breviary of Britain, probably a corruption from Gorddyar, a roar- 
ing, applied to the sea, as Gorddyar mor, the roaring of the sea. 

2 This harbour, now known by the name of Portscwit (and 
recorded in the Triads as one of the three passages or ferries in 
the Isle of Britain), is situated on the Welsh side of the Bristol 
channel, at a short distance from the lower passage. 

3 Port Mawr, or the large port, is thus mentioned by Leland in 
his Itinerary, torn. v. pp. 28, 29: "About a mile of is Port Mawre, 
where is a great sande with a shorte estuary into the lande. And 
sum say that there hath beene a castel at or aboute Port Mawr, 
but the tokens be not very evidente." 

4 Rhyd-helyg, or the Ford of the Willow. I imagine this place 
is Walford in Herefordshire, near the banks of the river Wye. 


1 5 6 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

the time the Saxons took possession of the island the 
remnants of the Britons, retiring into these regions, 
could never be entirely subdued either by the English 
or by the Normans. Those who inhabited the southern 
angle of the island, which took its name from the chief- 
tain Corinaeus, 1 made less resistance, as their country 
was more defenceless. The third division of the Britons, 
who obtained a part of Britany in Gaul, were transported 
thither, not after the defeat of theii nation, but long 
before, by king Maximus, and, in consequence of the 
hard and continued warfare which they underwent with 
him, were rewarded by the royal munificence with those 
districts in France. 



Wales was in ancient times divided into three parts 
nearly equal, consideration having been paid, in this 
division, more to the value than to the just quantity 
or proportion of territory. They were Venedotia, now 
called North Wales ; Demetia, or South Wales, which in 
British is called Deheubarth, that is, the southern part; 
and Powys, the middle or eastern district. Roderic the 
Great, or Rhodri Mawr, who was king over all Wales, 
was the cause of this division. 2 He had three sons, 
Mervin, Anarawt, and Cadell, amongst whom he parti- 
tioned the whole principality. North Wales fell to the 
lot of Mervin; Powys to Anarawt; and Cadell received 

1 Brutus, according to the fable, in his way to Britain, met with 
a company of Trojans, who had fled from Troy with Antenor and 
Corinaeus at their head, who submitted themselves to Brutus, and 
joined his company; which Corinaeus, being a very valiant man, 
rendered great service to Brutus during his wars in Gaul and 
Britain; in return for which, Brutus, having subdued the island, 
and divided it amongst his people, gave Cornwall to Corinaeus, 
who, as it is said, called it after his own name, Cernyw. 

Description of Wales 157 

the portion of South Wales, together with the general 
good wishes of his brothers and the people ; for although 
this district greatly exceeded the others in quantity, it 
was the least desirable from the number of noble chiefs, 
or Uchelwyr, 1 men of a superior rank, who inhabited it, 
and were often rebellious to their lords, and impatient 
of control. But Cadell, on the death of his brothers, 
obtained the entire dominion of Wales, 2 as did his 
successors till the time of Tewdwr, whose descendants, 
Rhys, son of Tewdwr, Gruffydd, son of Rhys, and Rhys, 
son of Gruffydd, the ruling prince in our time, enjoyed 
only (like the father) the sovereignty over South Wales. 



The following is the generation of princes of South 
Wales: Rhys, son of Gruff ydd ; Gruffydd, son of Rhys; 
Rhys, son of Tewdwr; Tewdwr, son of Eineon; Eineon, 
son of Owen; Owen, son of Howel Dda, or Howel the 
Good; Howel, son of Cadell, son of Roderic the Great. 
Thus the princes of South Wales derived their origin from 
Cadell, son of Roderic the Great. The princes of North 
Wales descended from Mervin in this manner : Llewelyn, 
son of Iorwerth ; Iorwerth, son of Owen ; Owen, son of 
Gruffydd ; Gruffydd, son of Conan ; Conan, son of Iago ; 
Iago, son of Edoual; Edoual, son of Meyric; Meyric, 
son of Anarawt (Anandhrec); Anarawt, son of Mervin, 
son of Roderic the Great. Anarawt leaving no issue, 
the princes of Powys have their own particular descent. 
It is worthy of remark, that the Welsh bards and 

1 Uchelwyr, so called from Uchel, high, and gwr, a man. 

2 This assertion is unfounded, if we give credit to the Welsh 
Chronicle, which dates the death of Cadell in 907, and that of 
Anarawdin in 913. [Howell Dda, the son of Cadell, reunited 
Wales under one sovereign.] 

i 5 8 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

singers, or reciters, have the genealogies of the aforesaid 
princes, written in the Welsh language, in their ancient 
and authentic books; and also retain them in their 
memory from Roderic the Great to B. M. ; * and from 
thence to Sylvius, Ascanius, and .Eneas; and from the 
latter produce the genealogical series in a lineal descent, 
even to Adam. 

But as an account of such long and remote genealogies 
may appear to many persons trifling rather than his- 
torical, we have purposely omitted them in our com- 



South Wales contains twenty-nine cantreds; North 
Wales, twelve; Powys, six: many of which are at this 
time in the possession of the English and Franks. For 
the country now called Shropshire formerly belonged to 
Powys, and the place where the castle of Shrewsbury 
stands bore the name of Pengwern, or the head of the 
Alder Grove. There were three royal seats in South 
Wales: Dinevor, in South Wales, removed from Caer- 
leon; Aberfraw, 2 in North Wales; and Pengwern, in 

Wales contains in all fifty-four cantreds. The word 
Cantref is derived from Cant, a hundred, and Tref, a vil- 

1 B.M. This abbreviation, which in ever)' manuscript I have 
seen of Giraldus has been construed into Beatam Mariam, and in 
many of them is written Beatam Virginem, may with much greater 
propriety be applied to Belinus Magnus, or Beli the Great, a 
distinguished British king, to whom most of the British pedigrees 
ascended; and because his name occurred so frequently in them 
it was often written short, B.M., which some men, by mistake, 
interpreted Beaia Maria. [Sir R. C. H.) 

2 Aberfraw, a small town at the conflux of the river Fraw and 
the sea, on the S.W. part of the isle of Anglesey, and twelve miles 
S.E. of Holyhead. 

Description of Wales 159 

lage ; and means in the British and Irish languages such 
a portion of land as contains a hundred vills. 

There are four cathedral churches in Wales: St. 
David's, upon the Irish sea, David the archbishop being 
its patron: it was in ancient times the metropolitan 
church, and the district once contained twenty-four 
cantreds, though at this time only twenty-three; for 
Ergengl, in English called Urchenfeld, 1 is said to have 
been formerly within the diocese of St. David's, and 
sometimes was placed within that of Landaff. The see 
of St. David's had twenty-five successive archbishops; 
and from the time of the removal of the pall into France, 
to this day, twenty-two bishops; whose names and 
series, as well as the cause of the removal of the archi- 
episcopal pall, may be seen in our Itinerary. 2 

In South Wales also is situated the bishopric of Lan- 
daff, near the Severn sea, and near the noble castle of 
Caerdyf; bishop Teilo being its patron. It contains 
five cantreds, and the fourth part of another, namely, 

In North Wales, between Anglesey and the Eryri moun- 
tains, is the see of Bangor, under the patronage of 
Daniel, the abbot; it contains about nine cantreds. 

In North Wales also is the poor little cathedral of 
Llan-Elwy, or St. Asaph, containing about six cantreds, 
to which Powys is subject. 



Wales is divided and distinguished by noble rivers, 
which derive their source from two ranges of mountains, 

1 A great lordship in Herefordshire, including the district be- 
tween Hereford and Monmouth, bordering on the river Wye. 

2 Book ii. chapter i. 

160 Giraldus Cambrensis 

the Ellennith, in South Wales, which the English call 
Moruge, as being the heads of moors, or bogs ; and Eryri, 
in North Wales, which they call Snowdon, or mountains 
of snow; the latter of which are said to be of so great an 
extent, that if all the herds in Wales were collected to- 
gether, they would supply them with pasture for a con- 
siderable time. Upon them are two lakes, one of which 
has a floating island ; and the other contains fish having 
only one eye, as we have related in our Itinerary. 

We must also here remark, that at two places in 
Scotland, one on the eastern, and the other on the 
western ocean, the sea-fish called mulvelli (mullets) have 
only the right eye. 

The noble river Severn takes its rise from the Ellen- 
nith mountains, and flowing by the castles of Shrewsbury 
and Bridgenorth, through the city of Worcester, and 
that of Gloucester, celebrated for its iron manufactories, 
falls into the sea a few miles from the latter place, and 
gives its name to the Severn Sea. This river was for 
many years the boundary between Cambria and Loegria, 
or Wales and England; it was called in British Hafren, 
from the daughter of Locrinus, who was drowned in it by 
her step-mother; the aspirate being changed, according 
to the Latin idiom, into S, as is usual in words derived 
from the Greek, it was termed Sarina, as hal becomes 
sal ; hemi, semi ; hepta, septem. 

The river Wye rises in the same mountains of Ellennith, 
and flows by the castles of Hay and Clifford, through the 
city of Hereford, by the castles of Wilton and Goodrich, 
through the forest of Dean, abounding with iron and 
deer, and proceeds to Strigul castle, below which it 
empties itself into the sea, and forms in modern times 
the boundary between England and Wales. The Usk 
does not derive its origin from these mountains, but from 
those of Cantref Bachan; it flows by the castle of 
Brecheinoc, or Aberhodni, that is, the fall of the river 
Hodni into the Usk (for Aber, in the British language, 
signifies every place where two rivers unite their 

Description of Wales i 6 1 

streams); by the castles of Abergevenni and Usk, through 
the ancient city of Legions, and discharges itself into the 
Severn Sea, not far from Newport. 

The river Remni flows towards the sea from the 
mountains of Brecheinoc, having passed the castle and 
bridge of Remni. From the same range of mountains 
springs the Taf, which pursues its course to the episcopal 
see of Landaf (to which it gives its name), and falls into 
the sea below the castle of Caerdyf. The river Avon 
rushes impetuously from the mountains of Glamorgan, 
between the celebrated Cistercian monasteries of Margan 
and Neth; and the river Neth, descending from the 
mountains of Brecheinoc, unites itself with the sea, at no 
great distance from the castle of Neth; each of these 
rivers forming a long tract of dangerous quicksands. 
From the same mountains of Brecheinoc the river Tawe 
flows down to Abertawe, called in English Swainsey. 
The Lochor joins the sea near the castle of the same 
name; and the Wendraeth has its confluence near 
Cydweli. The Tywy, another noble river, rises in the 
Ellennith mountains, and separating the Cantref Mawr 
from the Cantref Bachan, passes by the castle of Llan- 
ymddyfri, and the royal palace and castle of Dinevor, 
strongly situated in the deep recesses of its woods, by the 
noble castle of Caermarddin, where Merlin was found, 
and from whom the city received its name, and runs 
into the sea near the castle of Lhanstephan. The river 
Taf rises in the Presseleu mountains, not far from the 
monastery of Whitland, and passing by the castle of St. 
Clare, falls into the sea near Abercorran and Talacharn. 
From the same mountains flow the rivers Cleddeu, en- 
compassing the province of Daugleddeu, and giving it 
their name; one passes by the castle of Lahaden, and 
the other by Haverford, to the sea; and in the British 
language they bear the name of Daugleddeu, or two 

The noble river Teivi springs from the Ellennith 
mountains, in the upper part of the Cantref Mawr and 


1 62 Giraldus Cambrensis 

Caerdigan, not far from the pastures and excellent 
monastery of Stratflur, forming a boundary between 
Demetia and Caerdigan down to the Irish channel; this 
is the only river in Wales that produces beavers, an 
account of which is given in our Itinerary; and also 
exceeds every other river in the abundance and delicacy 
of its salmon. But as this book may fall into the hands 
of many persons who will not meet with the other, I 
have thought it right here to insert many curious and 
particular qualities relating to the nature of these 
animals, how they convey their materials from the 
woods to the river, with what skill they employ these 
materials in constructing places of safety in the middle 
of the stream, how artfully they defend themselves 
against the attack of the hunters on the eastern and how 
on the western side; the singularity of their tails, which 
partake more of the nature of fish than flesh. For 
further particulars see the Itinerary. 1 

From the same mountains issues the Ystuyth, and 
flowing through the upper parts of Penwedic, in Cardi- 
ganshire, falls into the sea near the castle of Aberystuyth. 
From the snowy mountains of Eryri flows the noble 
river Devi, 2 dividing for a great distance North and South 
Wales; and from the same mountains also the large 
river Maw, 3 forming by its course the greater and 

1 Book ii, c. 4. 

2 If by the mountains of Eryri we are to understand the Snow- 
donian range of hills, our author has not been quite accurate in 
fixing the source of the river Dovy, which rises between Dynas-y- 
mowddu and Bala Lake, to the southward of Mount Arran: from 
whence it pursues its course to Mallwyd, and Machynlleth, below 
which place it becomes an asstuary, and the boundary between 
North and South Wales. 

3 Our author is again incorrect in stating that the river Maw 
forms, by its course, the two tracts of sands called Traeth Mawr 
and Traeth Bychan. This river, from which Barmouth derives 
the name of Abermaw, and to which Giraldus, in the fifth chapter 
of the second book of his Itinerary, has given the epithet of bifurcus, 
runs far to the southward of either of the Traeths. The Traeth 
Mawr, or large sands, are formed by the impetuous torrents which 
descend from Snowdon by Beddgelert, and pass under the Devil's 
Bridge at Pont Aberglasllyn, so called from the river Glasllyn; 

Description of Wales 163 

smaller tract of sands called the Traeth Mawr and the 
Traeth Bachan. The Dissennith also, and the Arthro, 
flow through Merionethshire and the land of Conan. 
The Conwy, springing from the northern side of the 
Eryri mountains, unites its waters with the sea under 
the noble castle of Deganwy. The Cloyd rises from 
another side of the same mountain, and passes by the 
castle of Ruthlan to the sea. The Doverdwy, called by 
the English Dee, draws its source from the lake of 
Penmelesmere, and runs through Chester, leaving the 
wood of Coleshulle, Basinwerk, and a rich vein of silver 
in its neighbourhood, far to the right, and by the influx 
of the sea forming a very dangerous quicksand; thus 
the Dee makes the northern, and the river Wye the 
southern boundary of Wales. 



As the southern part of Wales near Cardiganshire, but 
particularly Pembrokeshire, is much pleasanter, on 
account of its plains and sea-coast, so North Wales is 
better defended by nature, is more productive of men 
distinguished for bodily strength, and more fertile in the 
nature of its soil ; for, as the mountains of Eryri (Snow- 
don) could supply pasturage for all the herds of cattle in 
Wales, if collected together, so could the Isle of Mona 
(Anglesey) provide a requisite quantity of corn for all 
the inhabitants: on which account there is an old 
British proverb, " Mon mam Cynibry" that is, " Mona 
is the mother of Wales." Merionyth, and the land of 

and the Traeth Bychan, or little sands, are formed by numerous, 
streams which unite themselves in the vale of Festiniog, and 
become an aestuary near the village of Maentwrog. 


Giraldus Cambrensis 

Conan, is the rudest and least cultivated region, and the 
least accessible. The natives of that part of Wales 
excel in the use of long lances, as those of Monmouth- 
shire are distinguished for their management of the bow. 
It is to be observed, that the British language is more 
delicate and richer in North Wales, that country being 
less intermixed with foreigners. Many, however, assert 
that the language of Cardiganshire, in South Wales, 
placed as it were in the middle and heart of Cambria, is 
the most refined. 

The people of Cornwall and the Armoricans speak a 
language similar to that of the Britons; and from its 
origin and near resemblance, it is intelligible to the Welsh 
in many instances, and almost in all; and although less 
delicate and methodical, yet it approaches, as I judge, 
more to the ancient British idiom. As in the southern 
parts of England, and particularly in Devonshire, the 
English language seems less agreeable, yet it bears more 
marks of antiquity (the northern parts being much 
corrupted by the irruptions of the Danes and Nor- 
wegians), and adheres more strictly to the original 
language and ancient mode of speaking; a positive 
proof of which may be deduced from all the English 
works of Bede, Rhabanus, and king Alfred, being 
written according to this idiom. 



Cambria was so called from Camber, son of Brutus ; for 
Brutus, descending from the Trojans, by his grand- 
father, Ascanius, and father, Silvius, led the remnant 
of the Trojans, who had long been detained in Greece, 
into this western isle; and having reigned many years, 
and given his name to the country and people, at his 

Description of Wales 165 

death divided the kingdom of Wales between his three 
sons. To his eldest son, Locrinus, he gave that part of 
the island which lies between the rivers Humber and 
Severn, and which from him was called Loegria. To his 
second son, Albanactus, he gave the lands beyond the 
Humber, which took from him the name of Albania. 
But to his youngest son, Camber, he bequeathed all that 
region which lies beyond the Severn, and is called after 
him Cambria ; hence the country is properly and truly 
called Cambria, and its inhabitants Cambrians^ or 
Cambrenses. Some assert that their name was derived 
from Cam and Grceco, that is, distorted Greek, on account 
of the affinity of their languages, contracted by their 
long residence in Greece; but this conjecture, though 
plausible, is not well founded on truth. 

The name of Wales was not derived from Wallowa 
general, or Wandolena, the queen, as the fabulous his- 
tory of Geoffrey Arthurius x falsely maintains, because 
neither of these personages are to be found amongst the 
Welsh; but it arose from a barbarian appellation. The 
Saxons, when they seized upon Britain, called this 
nation, as they did all foreigners, Wallenses; and thus 
the barbarous name remains to the people and their 
country. 2 

Having discoursed upon the quality and quantity of 
the land, the genealogies of the princes, the sources of 
the rivers, and the derivation of the names of this coun- 
try, we shall now consider the nature and character of 
the nation. 

1 Better known as Geoffrey of Monmouth. 

2 The Anglo-Saxons called the Britons Wealhas, from a word in 
their own language, which signified literally foreigners ; and hence 
we derive the modern name Welsh. 

1 66 Giraldus Cambrensis 



This people is light and active, hardy rather than strong, 
and entirely bred up to the use of arms ; for not only the 
nobles, but all the people are trained to war, and when 
the trumpet sounds the alarm, the husbandman rushes 
as eagerly from his plough as the courtier from his court; 
for here it is not found that, as in other places, 

" Agricolis labor actus in orbem," 

returns ; for in the months of March and April only the 
soil is once ploughed for oats, and again in the summer 
a third time, and in winter for wheat. Almost all the 
people live upon the produce of their herds, with oats, 
milk, cheese, and butter; eating flesh in larger propor- 
tions than bread. They pay no attention to commerce, 
shipping, or manufactures, and suffer no interruption 
but by martial exercises. They anxiously study the 
defence of their country and their liberty ; for these they 
fight, for these they undergo hardships, and for these 
willingly sacrifice their lives; they esteem it a disgrace 
to die in bed, an honour to die in the field of battle; 
using the poet's expression, 

" Procul hinc avertite pacem, 
Nobilitas cum pace pent." 

Nor is it wonderful if it degenerates, for the ancestors 
of these men, the ^Eneadse, rushed to arms in the cause 
of liberty. It is remarkable that this people, though 
unarmed, dares attack an armed foe; the infantry defy 
the cavalry, and by their activity and courage gener- 
ally prove victors. They resemble in disposition and 

Description of Wales 167 

situation those conquerors whom the poet Lucan 
mentions : 

" Populi quos despicit Arctos, 

Felices errore suo, quos ille timorum 
Maximus haud urget leti metus, inde ruendi 
In ferrum, mens prona viris, animaeque capaces, 
Mortis et ignavum redituras parcere vitas." 

They make use of light arms, which do not impede their 
agility, small coats of mail, bundles of arrows, and long 
lances, helmets and shields, and more rarely greaves 
plated with iron. The higher class go to battle mounted 
on swift and generous steeds, which their country pro- 
duces ; but the greater part of the people fight on foot, 
on account of the marshy nature and unevenness of 
the soil. The horsemen, as their situation or occasion 
requires, willingly serve as infantry, in attacking or re- 
treating; and they either walk bare-footed, or make use 
of high shoes, roughly constructed with untanned 
leather. In time of peace, the young men, by pene- 
trating the deep recesses of the woods, and climbing the 
tops of mountains, learn by practice to endure fatigue 
through day and night; and as they meditate on war 
during peace, they acquire the art of fighting by accus- 
toming themselves to the use of the lance, and by inuring 
themselves to hard exercise. 

In our time, king Henry II., in reply to the inquiries 
of Emanuel, emperor of Constantinople, concerning 
the situation, nature, and striking peculiarities of the 
British island, among other remarkable circumstances 
mentioned the following: "That in a certain part of 
the island there was a people, called Welsh, so bold and 
ferocious, that, when unarmed, they did not fear to en- 
counter an armed force ; being ready to shed their blood 
in defence of their country, and to sacrifice their lives 
for renown; which is the more surprising, as the beasts 
of the field over the whole face of the island became 
gentle, but these desperate men could not be tamed. 
The wild animals, and particularly the stags and hinds, 

1 68 Giraldus Cambrensis 

are so abundant, owing to the little molestation they 
receive, that in our time, in the northern parts of the 
island towards the Peak, 1 when pursued by the hounds 
and hunters, they contributed, by their numbers, to 
their own destruction." 



Not addicted to gluttony or drunkenness, this people 
who incur no expense in food or dress, and whose minds 
are always bent upon the defence of their country, and 
on the means of plunder, are wholly employed in the 
care of their horses and furniture. Accustomed to fast 
from morning till evening, and trusting to the care of 
Providence, they dedicate the whole day to business, 
and in the evening partake of a moderate meal; and 
even if they have none, or only a very scanty one, they 
patiently wait till the next evening; and, neither de- 
terred by cold nor hunger, they employ the dark and 
stormy nights in watching the hostile motions of their 



No one of this nation ever begs, for the houses of all 
are common to all; and they consider liberality and 
hospitality amongst the first virtues. So much does 
hospitality here rejoice in communication, that it is 
neither offered nor requested by travellers, who, on 
entering any house, only deliver up their arms. When 
1 The Peak, ia Derbyshire. 

Description of Wales 169 

water is offered to them, if they suffer their feet to be 
washed, they are received as guests; for the offer of 
water to wash the feet is with this nation an hospitable 
invitation. But if they refuse the proffered service, 
they only wish for morning refreshment, not lodging. 
The young men move about in troops and families under 
the direction of a chosen leader. Attached only to 
arms and ease, and ever ready to stand forth in defence 
of their country, they have free admittance into every 
house as if it were their own. 

Those who arrive in the morning are entertained till 
evening with the conversation of young women, and the 
music of the harp; for each house has its young women 
and harps allotted to this purpose. Two circumstances 
here deserve notice: that as no nation labours more 
under the vice of jealousy than the Irish, so none is more 
free from it than the Welsh : and in each family the art 
of playing on the harp is held preferable to any other 
learning. In the evening, when no more guests are ex- 
pected, the meal is prepared according to the number 
and dignity of the persons assembled, and according to 
the wealth of the family who entertains. The kitchen 
does not supply many dishes, nor high-seasoned incite- 
ments to eating. The house is not furnished with tables, 
cloths, or napkins. They study nature more than 
splendour, for which reason, the guests being seated in 
threes, instead of couples as elsewhere, 1 they place the 
dishes before them all at once upon rushes and fresh 
grass, in large platters or trenchers. They also make 
use of a thin and broad cake of bread, baked every day, 
such as in old writings was called lagana ; 2 and they 

1 Sir R. C. Hoare has altogether misunderstood the original 
here. It was the custom in the middle ages to place the guests at 
table in pairs, and each two persons ate out of one plate. Each 
couple was a mess. At a later period, among the great the mess 
consisted of four persons; but it appears that in Wales, at this 
time, it was formed of three guests. 

2 " Bread, called Lagana, was, I suppose, the sort of household 
bread, or thin cake baked on an iron plate, called a griddle (gradell), 
still common in Caermarthenshire, and called Bara Llech and Bara 

170 Giraldus Cambrensis 

sometimes add chopped meat, with broth. Such a re- 
past was formerly used by the noble youth, from whom 
this nation boasts its descent, and whose manners it 
still partly imitates, according to the word of the poet: 

" Heu! mensas consumimus, inquit lulus." 

While the family is engaged in waiting on the guests, 
the host and hostess stand up, paying unremitting atten- 
tion to everything, and take no food till all the company 
are satisfied; that in case of any deficiency, it may fall 
upon them. A bed made of rushes, and covered with a 
coarse kind of cloth manufactured in the country, called 
brychan, 1 is then placed along the side of the room, and 
they all in common lie down to sleep ; nor is their dress 
at night different from that by day, for at all seasons 
they defend themselves from the cold only by a thin 
cloak and tunic. The fire continues to burn by night as 
well as by day, at their feet, and they receive much com- 
fort from the natural heat of the persons lying near them ; 
but when the under side begins to be tired with the 
hardness of the bed, or the upper one to suffer from cold, 
they immediately leap up, and go to the fire, which soon 
relieves them from both inconveniences; and then re- 
turning to their couch, they expose alternately their 
sides to the cold, and to the hardness of the bed. 



The men and women cut their hair close round to the 
ears and eyes. The women, after the manner of the 

Llechan, or griddle bread, from being so baked." Owen. " Laga- 
num, a fritter or pancake, Baranyiod." Lluyd, Archaiology, p. 75. 
1 Brychan, in Lhuyd's Archaiology and Cornish Grammar, is 
spelt Bryccan, and interpreted a blanket. 

Description of Wales 171 

Parthians, cover their heads with a large white veil, 
folded together in the form of a crown. 

Both sexes exceed any other nation in attention to 
their teeth, which they render like ivory, by constantly 
rubbing them with green hazel and wiping with a woollen 
cloth. For their better preservation, they abstain from 
hot meats, and eat only such as are cold, warm, or 
temperate. The men shave all their beard except the 
moustaches (gernoboda). This custom is not recent, 
but was observed in ancient and remote ages, as we find 
in the works of Julius Caesar, who says, 1 " The Britons 
shave every part of their body except their head and 
upper lip; " and to render themselves more active, and 
avoid the fate of Absalon in their excursions through the 
woods, they are accustomed to cut even the hair from 
their heads; so that this nation more than any other 
shaves off all pilosity. Julius also adds, that the Britons, 
previous to an engagement, anointed their faces with a 
nitrous ointment, which gave them so ghastly and shining 
an appearance, that the enemy could scarcely bear to look 
at them, particularly if the rays of the sun were reflected 
on them. 



These people being of a sharp and acute intellect, and 
gifted with a rich and powerful understanding, excel in 
whatever studies they pursue, and are more quick and 
cunning than the other inhabitants of a western clime. 
Their musical instruments charm and delight the ear 

1 " Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod ca;ruleum efficit 
colorem, atque hoc horridore sunt in pugna adspectu; capilloque 
sunt promisso, atque omni parte corporis rasa, prseter caput et 
labrum superius." Ccesar de Bello Gallico, cap. 13, 14. 

172 Giraldus Cambrensis 

with their sweetness, are borne along by such celerity and 
delicacy of modulation, producing such a consonance 
from the rapidity of seemingly discordant touches, that 
I shall briefly repeat what is set forth in our Irish Topo- 
graphy on the subject of the musical instruments of the 
three nations. It is astonishing that in so complex and 
rapid a movement of the fingers, the musical proportions 
can be preserved, and that throughout the difficult 
modulations on their various instruments, the harmony 
is completed with such a sweet velocity, so unequal an 
equality, so discordant a concord, as if the chords 
sounded together fourths or fifths. They always begin 
from B flat, and return to the same, that the whole may 
be completed under the sweetness of a pleasing sound. 
They enter into a movement, and conclude it in so deli- 
cate a manner, and play the little notes so sportively 
under the blunter sounds of the base strings, enlivening 
with wanton levity, or communicating a deeper internal 
sensation of pleasure, so that the perfection of their art 
appears in the concealment of it : 

" Si lateat, prosit; 

ferat ars deprensa pudorem." 

" Art profits when concealed, 
Disgraces when revealed." 

From this cause, those very strains which afford deep and 
unspeakable mental delight to those who have skilfully 
penetrated into the mysteries of the art, fatigue rather 
than gratify the ears of others, who seeing, do not per- 
ceive, and hearing, do not understand ; and by whom the 
finest music is esteemed no better than a confused and 
disorderly noise, and will be heard with unwillingness 
and disgust. 

They make use of three instruments, the harp, the 
pipe, and the crwth or crowd (chorus). 1 

1 This instrument is generally supposed to have been the origin 
of the violin, which was not commonly known in England till the 
reign of Charles I. Before this time the crwth was not probably 
confined to the Principality, from the name of Crowdero in Hudi- 

Description of Wales 173 

They omit no part of natural rhetoric in the manage- 
ment of civil actions, in quickness of invention, dis- 
position, refutation, and confirmation. In their rhymed 
songs and set speeches they are so subtile and ingenious, 
that they produce, in their native tongue, ornaments of 
wonderful and exquisite invention both in the words 
and sentences. Hence arise those poets whom they call 
Bards, of whom you will find many in this nation, en- 
dowed with the above faculty, according to the poet's 
observation : 

" Plurima concreti fuderunt carmina Bardi." 

But they make use of alliteration (anominatione) in pre- 
ference to all other ornaments of rhetoric, and that parti- 
cular kind which joins by consonancy the first letters or 
syllables of words. So much do the English and Welsh 
nations employ this ornament of words in all exquisite 
composition, that no sentence is esteemed to be elegantly 
spoken, no oration to be otherwise than uncouth and 
unrefined, unless it be fully polished with the file of this 
figure. Thus in the British tongue: 

" Digawn Duw da i unic." 

" Wrth bob crybwyll rhaid pwyll parawd." 1 

bras; as also from a fiddler being still called a crowder in some 
parts of England, though he now plays on a violin instead of a 

1 These Welsh lines quoted by Giraldus are selected from two 
different stanzas of moral verses, called Eglynion y Clywed, the 
composition of some anonymous bard; or probably the work of 
several : 

" A glyweisti a gant Dywyneg, 
Milwr doeth detholedig; 
Digawn Duw da i unig? 

" Hast thou heard what was sung by Dywynic? 
A wise and chosen warrior; 
God will effect solace to the orphan. 

" A glyweisti a gant Anarawd? 
Milwr doniawg did lawd; 
Rhaid wrth anmhwyll pwyll parawd. 

" Hast thou heard what was sung by Anarawd? 
A warrior endowed with many gifts; 
With want of sense ready wit is necessary." 

174 Giraldus Cambrensis 

And in English, 

" God is together gammen and wisedom." 
The same ornament of speech is also frequent in the 
Latin language. Virgil says, 

" Tales casus Cassandra canebat." 
And again, in his address to Augustus, 

" Dum dubitet natura marem, faceretve puellam, 
Natus es, o pulcher, pene puella, puer." 

This ornament occurs not in any language we know so 
frequently as in the two first; it is, indeed, surprising 
that the French, in other respects so ornamented, should 
be entirely ignorant of this verbal elegance so much 
adopted in other languages. Nor can I believe that the 
English and Welsh, so different and adverse to each 
other, could designedly have agreed in the usage of this 
figure; but I should rather suppose that it had grown 
habitual to both by long custom, as it pleases the ear by 
a transition from similar to similar sounds. Cicero, in 
his book " On Elocution," observes of such who know 
the practice, not the art, " Other persons when they read 
good orations or poems, approve of the orators or poets, 
not understanding the reason why, being affected, they 
approve; because they cannot know in what place, of 
what nature, nor how that effect is caused which so highly 
delights them." 



In their musical concerts they do not sing in unison like 
the inhabitants of other countries, but in many different 

Or, as Giraldus quotes it, 

" Wrth bob crybwll rhaid pwyll parawd." 
" With every hint ready wit is necessary." 

Myvyvrian Archaiology, page 172. 

Description of Wales 175 

parts; so that in a company of singers, which one very 
frequently meets with in Wales, you will hear as many 
different parts and voices as there are performers, who 
all at length unite, with organic melody, in one conson- 
ance and the soft sweetness of B flat. In the northern 
district of Britain, beyond the Humber, and on the 
borders of Yorkshire, the inhabitants make use of the 
same kind of symphonious harmony, but with less 
variety; singing only in two parts, one murmuring in 
the base, the other warbling in the acute or treble. 
Neither of the two nations has acquired this peculiarity 
by art, but by long habit, which has rendered it natural 
and familiar; and the practice is now so firmly rooted 
in them, that it is unusual to hear a simple and single 
melody well sung; and, what is still more wonderful, 
the children, even from their infancy, sing in the same 
manner. As the English in general do not adopt this 
mode of singing, but only those of the northern countries, 
I believe that it was from the Danes and Norwegians, 
by whom these parts of the island were more frequently 
invaded, and held longer under their dominion, that 
the natives contracted their mode of singing as well as 



The heads of different families, in order to excite the 
laughter of their guests, and gain credit by their sayings, 
make use of great facetiousness in their conversation ; at 
one time uttering their jokes in a light, easy manner, at 
another time, under the disguise of equivocation, passing 
the severest censures. For the sake of explanation I 
shall here subjoin a few examples. Tegeingl is the name 
of a province in North Wales, over which David, son of 

176 Giraldus Cambrensis 

Owen, had dominion, and which had once been in the 
possession of his brother. The same word also was the 
name of a certain woman with whom, it was said, each 
brother had an intrigue, from which circumstance arose 
this term of reproach, " To have Tegeingl, after Tegeingl 
had been in possession of his brother." 

At another time, when Rhys, son of Gruffydd, prince 
of South Wales, accompanied by a multitude of his 
people, devoutly entered the church of St. David's, pre- 
vious to an intended journey, the oblations having been 
made, and mass solemnised, a young man came to him 
in the church, and publicly declared himself to be his 
son, threw himself at his feet, and with tears humbly re- 
quested that the truth of this assertion might be ascer- 
tained by the trial of the burning iron. Intelligence of 
this circumstance being conveyed to his family and his 
two sons, who had just gone out of the church, a youth 
who was present made this remark: " This is not wonder- 
ful; some have brought gold, and others silver, as offer- 
ings; but this man, who had neither, brought what he 
had, namely, iron ; " thus taunting him with his poverty. 
On mentioning a certain house that was strongly built 
and almost impregnable, one of the company said, " This 
house indeed is strong, for if it should contain food it 
could never be got at," thus alluding both to the food 
and to the house. In like manner, a person, wishing to 
hint at the avaricious disposition of the mistress of a 
house, said, " I only find fault with our hostess for put- 
ting too little butter to her salt," whereas the accessary 
should be put to the principal; thus, by a subtile trans- 
position of the words, converting the accessary into the 
principal, by making it appear to abound in quantity. 
Many similar sayings of great men and philosophers are 
recorded in the Saturnalia of Macrobius. When Cicero 
saw his son-in-law, Lentulus, a man of small stature, with 
a long sword by his side: " Who," says he, " has girded 
my son-in-law to that sword? " thus changing the ac- 
cessary into the principal. The same person, on seeing 

Description of Wales 177 

the half-length portrait of his brother Quintus Cicero, 
drawn with very large features and an immense shield, 
exclaimed, " Half of my brother is greater than the 
whole! " When the sister of Faustus had an intrigue 
with a fuller, " Is it strange," says he, " that my sister 
has a spot, when she is connected with a fuller ? ' ' When 
Antiochus showed Hannibal his army, and the great 
warlike preparations he had made against the Romans, 
and asked him, " Thinkest thou, Hannibal, that these 
are sufficient for the Romans?" Hannibal, ridiculing 
the unmilitary appearance of the soldiers, wittily and 
severely replied, " I certainly think them sufficient for 
the Romans, however greedy;" Antiochus asking his 
opinion about the military preparations, and Hannibal 
alluding to them as becoming a prey to the Romans. 



Nature hath given not only to the highest, but also to 
the inferior, classes of the people of this nation, a bold- 
ness and confidence in speaking and answering, even in 
the presence of their princes and chieftains. The Romans 
and Franks had the same faculty ; but neither the Eng- 
lish, nor the Saxons and Germans, from whom they are 
descended, had it. It is in vain urged, that this defect 
may arise from the state of servitude which the English 
endured; for the Saxons and Germans, who enjoy their 
liberty, have the same failing, and derive this natural 
coldness of disposition from the frozen region they in- 
habit; the English also, although placed in a distant 
climate, still retain the exterior fairness of complexion 
and inward coldness of disposition, as inseparable from 
their original and natural character. The Britons, on 



Giraldus Cambrensis 

the contrary, transplanted from the hot and parched 
regions of Dardania into these more temperate districts, 

" Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt," 

still retain their brown complexion and that natural 
warmth of temper from which their confidence is derived. 
For three nations, remnants of the Greeks after the 
destruction of Troy, fled from Asia into different parts 
of Europe, the Romans under ^Eneas, the Franks under 
Antenor, and the Britons under Brutus; and from 
thence arose that courage, that nobleness of mind, that 
ancient dignity, that acuteness of understanding, and 
confidence of speech, for which these three nations are 
so highly distinguished. But the Britons, from having 
been detained longer in Greece than the other two 
nations, after the destruction of their country, and 
having migrated at a later period into the western parts 
of Europe, retained in a greater degree the primitive 
words and phrases of their native language. You will 
find amongst them the names Oenus, Resus, iEneas, 
Hector, Achilles, Heliodorus, Theodorus, Ajax, Evander, 
Uliex, Anianus, Elisa, Guendolena, and many others, 
bearing marks of their antiquity. It is also to be ob- 
served, that almost all words in the British language 
correspond either with the Greek or Latin, as t'Swf, water, 
is called in British, dwr; dAs, salt, in British, halen; 
ovop-a, eno, a name; -Trevre, pump, five; Se/ca, deg, ten. 
The Latins also use the words frsenum, tripos, gladius, 
lorica; the Britons, froyn (ffrwyn), trepet (tribedd), 
cleddyf, and lluric (llurig); unicus is made unic (unig); 
canis, can (cwn); and belua, beleu. 

Description of Wales 179 



There are certain persons in Cambria, whom you will 
find nowhere else, called Awenddyon, 1 or people inspired ; 
when consulted upon any doubtful event, they roar out 
violently, are rendered beside themselves, and become, 
as it were, possessed by a spirit. They do not deliver 
the answer to what is required in a connected manner; 
but the person who skilfully observes them, will find, 
after many preambles, and many nugatory and inco- 
herent, though ornamented speeches, the desired ex- 
planation conveyed in some turn of a word: they are 
then roused from their ecstasy, as from a deep sleep, and, 
as it were, by violence compelled to return to their proper 
senses. After having answered the questions, they do 
not recover till violently shaken by other people; nor 
can they remember the replies they have given. If con- 
sulted a second or third time upon the same point, they 
will make use of expressions totally different; perhaps 
they speak by the means of fanatic and ignorant spirits. 
These gifts are usually conferred upon them in dreams : 
some seem to have sweet milk or honey poured on their 
lips; others fancy that a written schedule is applied to 
their mouths, and on awaking they publicly declare that 
they have received this gift. Such is the saying of 
Esdras, " The Lord said unto me, open thy mouth, and 
I opened my mouth, and behold a cup full of water, 
whose colour was like fire ; and when I had drank it, my 
heart brought forth understanding, and wisdom entered 

1 Awenydhion, in a literal sense, means persons inspired by the 
Muse, and is derived from Awen and Awenydd, a poetical rapture, 
or the gift of poetry. It was the appellation of the disciples, or 
candidates for the Bardic Order; but the most general acceptation 
of the word was. Poets, or Bards. 

i8o Giraldus Cambrensis 

into my breast." They invoke, during their prophecies, 
the true and living God, and the Holy Trinity, and pray 
that they may not by their sins be prevented from finding 
the truth. These prophets are only found among the 
Britons descended from the Trojans. For Calchas and 
Cassandra, endowed with the spirit of prophecy, openly 
foretold, during the siege of Troy, the destruction of 
that fine city ; on which account the high priest, Helenus, 
influenced by the prophetic books of Calchas, and of 
others who had long before predicted the ruin of their 
country, in the first year went over to the Greeks with 
the sons of Priam (to whom he was high priest), and was 
afterwards rewarded in Greece. Cassandra, daughter of 
king Priam, every day foretold the overthrow of the 
city; but the pride and presumption of the Trojans 
prevented them from believing her word. Even on the 
very night that the city was betrayed, she clearly de- 
scribed the treachery and the method of it: 

" tales casus Cassandra canebat," 

as in the same manner, during the existence of the king- 
dom of the Britons, both Merlin Caledonius and Ambro- 
sius are said to have foretold the destruction of their 
nation, as well as the coming of the Saxons, and after- 
wards that of the Normans ; and I think a circumstance 
related by Aulus Gellius worth inserting in this place. 
On the day that Caius Caesar and Cneius Pompey, during 
the civil war, fought a pitched battle in Thessalia, a 
memorable event occurred in that part of Italy situated 
beyond the river Po. A priest named Cornelius, honour- 
able from his rank, venerable for his religion, and holy in 
his manners, in an inspired moment proclaimed, " Caesar 
has conquered," and named the day, the events, the 
mutual attack, and the conflicts of the two armies. 
Whether such things are exhibited by the spirit, let the 
reader more particularly inquire; I do not assert they 
are. the acts of a Py thonic or a diabolic spirit ; for as fore- 
knowledge is the property of God alone, so is it in his 

Description of Wales 1 8 i 

power to confer knowledge of future events. There are 
differences of gifts, says the Apostle, but one and the 
same spirit; whence Peter, in his second Epistle, writes, 
" For the prophecy came not in the old time by the will 
of man, but men spake as if they were inspired by the 
Holy Ghost: " to the same effect did the Chaldeans 
answer king Nebuchadonazar on the interpretation of 
his dream, which he wished to extort from them. " There 
is not," say they, " a man upon earth who can, O king, 
satisfactorily answer your question; let no king there- 
fore, however great or potent, make a similar request to 
any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean; for it is a rare 
thing that the king requireth, and there is none other 
that can shew it before the king, except the Gods, whose 
dwelling is not with flesh." On this passage Jerome 
remarks, " The diviners and all the learned of this world 
confess, that the prescience of future events belongs to 
God alone; the prophets therefore, who foretold things 
to come, spake by the spirit of God. Hence some per- 
sons object, that, if they were under the guidance of the 
Holy Spirit, they would sometimes premise, " Thus saith 
the Lord God," or make use of some expression in the 
prophetic style; and as such a mode of prophesying is 
not taken notice of by Merlin, and no mention is made 
of his sanctity, devotion, or faith, many think that he 
spake by a Pythonic spirit. To which I answer, that 
the spirit of prophecy was given not only to the holy, 
but sometimes to unbelievers and Gentiles, to Baal, to 
the sibyls, and even to bad people, as to Caiaphas and 
Bela. On which occasion Origen says : " Do not wonder, 
if he whom ye have mentioned declares that the Scribes 
and Pharisees and doctors amongst the Jews prophesied 
concerning Christ; for Caiaphas said: " It is expedient 
for us that one man die for the people: " but asserts at 
the same time, that because he was high priest for that 
year, he prophesied. Let no man therefore be lifted up, 
if he prophesies, if he merits prescience ; for prophecies 
shall fail, tongues shall cease, knowledge shall vanish 

1 82 Giraldus Cambrensis 

away ; and now abideth, faith, hope, and charity : these 
three; but the greatest of these is Charity, which never 
faileth. But these bad men not only prophesied, but 
sometimes performed great miracles, which others could 
not accomplish. John the Baptist, who was so great a 
personage, performed no miracle, as John the Evangelist 
testifies: " And many came to Jesus and said, Because 
John wrought no signs," etc. Nor do we hear that the 
mother of God performed any miracle; we read in the 
Acts of the Apostles, that the sons of Sheva cast out 
devils in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preached: and 
in Matthew and Luke we may find these words: " Many 
shall say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not 
prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have cast out 
devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 
and then I will profess unto them, I never knew you." 
And in another place, John says: " Master, we saw a 
certain man casting out devils in thy name, and forbade 
him, because he followeth not with us." But Jesus said : 
" Forbid him not; no man can do a miracle in mv name, 
and speak evil of me; for whoever is not against me, is 
for me." 

Alexander of Macedon, a gentile, traversed the Caspian 
mountains, and miraculously confined ten tribes within 
their promontories, where they still remain, and will con- 
tinue until the coming of Elias and Enoch. We read, 
indeed, the prophecies of Merlin, but hear nothing either 
of his sanctity or his miracles. Some say, that the pro- 
phets, when they prophesied, did not become frantic, as 
it is affirmed of Merlin Silvestris, and others possessed, 
whom we have before mentioned. Some prophesied by 
dreams, visions, and enigmatical sayings, as Ezechiel 
and Daniel; others by acts and words, as Noah, in the 
construction of the ark, alluded to the church ; Abraham, 
in the slaying of his son, to the passion of Christ; and 
Moses by his speech, when he said, " A prophet shall the 
Lord God raise up to you of your brethren; hear him; " 
meaning Christ. Others have prophesied in a more ex- 

Description of Wales 183 

cellent way by the internal revelation and inspiration of 
the Holy Spirit, as David did when persecuted by Saul : 
" When Saul heard that David had fled to Naioth (which 
is a hill in Raman, and the seat of the prophets), he sent 
messengers to take him; and when they saw the com- 
pany of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing 
at their head, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers 
of Saul, and they also prophesied; and he sent mes- 
sengers a second and again a third time, and they also 
prophesied. And Saul enraged went thither also; and 
the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and 
prophesied until he came to Naioth, and he stripped off 
his royal vestments, and prophesied with the rest for all 
that day and all that night, whilst David and Samuel 
secretly observed what passed." Nor is it wonderful 
that those persons who suddenly receive the Spirit of 
God, and so signal a mark of grace, should for a time 
seem alienated from their earthly state of mind. 



The Welsh esteem noble birth and generous descent 
above all things, 1 and are, therefore, more desirous of 
marrying into noble than rich families. Even the 

1 Genealogies were preserved as a principle of necessity under 
the ancient British constitution. A man's pedigree was in reality 
his title deed, by which he claimed his birthright in the country. 
Every one was obliged to show his descent through nine genera- 
tions, in order to be acknowledged a free native, and by this right 
he claimed his portion of land in the community. He was affected 
with respect to legal process in his collateral affinities through 
nine degrees. For instance, every murder committed had a fine 
levied on the relations of the murderer, divided into nine degrees; 
his brother paying the greatest, and the ninth in affinity the least. 
This fine was distributed in the same way among the relatives of 
the victim. A person past the ninth descent formed a new family. 
Every family was represented by its elder; and these elders from 
every family were delegates to the national council. Owen. 

1 84 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

common people retain their genealogy, and can not only 
readily recount the names of their grandfathers and 
great-grandfathers, but even refer back to the sixth or 
seventh generation, or beyond them, in this manner: 
Rhys, son of Gruffydd, son of Rhys, son of Tewdwr, son 
of Eineon, son of Owen, son of Howel, son of Cadell, son 
of Roderic Mawr, and so on. 

Being particularly attached to family descent, they re- 
venge with vehemence the injuries which may tend to 
the disgrace of their blood; and being naturally of a 
vindictive and passionate disposition, they are ever 
ready to avenge not only recent but ancient affronts; 
they neither inhabit towns, villages, nor castles, but 
lead a solitary life in the woods, on the borders of which 
they do not erect sumptuous palaces, nor lofty stone 
buildings, but content themselves with small huts made 
of the boughs of trees twisted together, constructed with 
little labour and expense, and sufficient to endure 
throughout the year. They have neither orchards nor 
gardens, but gladly eat the fruit of both when given to 
them. The greater part of their land is laid down to 
pasturage; little is cultivated, a very small quantity is 
ornamented with flowers, and a still smaller is sown. 
They seldom yoke less than four oxen to their ploughs ; 
the driver walks before, but backwards, and when he 
falls down, is frequently exposed to danger from the re- 
fractory oxen. Instead of small sickles in mowing, they 
make use of a moderate-sized piece of iron formed like 
a knife, with two pieces of wood fixed loosely and flexibly 
to the head, which they think a more expeditious instru- 
ment; but since 

" Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures, 
Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus," 

their mode of using it will be better known by inspection 
than by any description. The boats x which they em- 

1 The navicultz mentioned by Giraldus bear the modern name 
of coracles, and are much used on the Welsh rivers for the taking 
of salmon. Their name is derived probably from the Celtic word 
corawg, which signifies a ship. They are mentioned by the ancient 

Description of Wales 185 

ploy in fishing or in crossing the rivers are made of twigs, 
not oblong nor pointed, but almost round, or rather 
triangular, covered both within and without with raw 
hides. When a salmon thrown into one of these boats 
strikes it hard with his tail, he often oversets it, and 
endangers both the vessel and its navigator. The fisher- 
men, according to the custom of the country, in going 
to and from the rivers, carry these boats on their 
shoulders; on which occasion that famous dealer in 
fables, Bleddercus, who lived a little before our time, 
thus mvsteriously said: " There is amongst us a people 
who, when they go out in search of prey, carry their 
horses on their backs to the place of plunder; in order 
to catch their prey, they leap upon their horses, and when 
it is taken, carry their horses home again upon their 



In ancient times, and about two hundred years before 
the overthrow of Britain, the Welsh were instructed and 
confirmed in the faith by Faganus and Damianus, sent 
into the island at the request of king Lucius by pope 
Eleutherius, and from that period when Germanus of 
Auxerre, and Lupus of Troyes, came over on account of 
the corruption which had crept into the island by the 
invasion of the Saxons, but particularly with a view of 
expelling the Pelagian heresy, nothing heretical or con- 
trary to the true faith was to be found amongst the 
natives. But it is said that some parts of the ancient 
doctrines are still retained. They give the first piece 
broken off from every loaf of bread to the poor; they sit 
down to dinner by three to a dish, in honour of the 
Trinity. With extended arms and bowing head, they 
ask a blessing of every monk or priest, or of every person 

1 86 Giraldus Cambrensis 

wearing a religious habit. But they desire, above all 
other nations, the episcopal ordination and unction, by 
which the grace of the spirit is given. They give a 
tenth of all their property, animals, cattle, and sheep, 
either when they marry, or go on a pilgrimage, or, by the 
counsel of the church, are persuaded to amend their 
lives. This partition of their effects they call the great 
tithe, two parts of which they give to the church where 
they were baptised, and the third to the bishop of the 
diocese. But of all pilgrimages they prefer that to 
Rome, where they pay the most fervent adoration to the 
apostolic see. We observe that they show a greater 
respect than other nations to churches and ecclesiastical 
persons, to the relics of saints, bells, holy books, and the 
cross, which they devoutly revere; and hence their 
churches enjoy more than common tranquillity. For 
peace is not only preserved towards all animals feeding 
in churchyards, but at a great distance beyond them, 
where certain boundaries and ditches have been ap- 
pointed by the bishops, in order to maintain the security 
of the sanctuary. But the principal churches to which 
antiquity has annexed the greater reverence extend their 
protection to the herds as far as they can go to feed in 
the morning and return at night. If, therefore, any 
person has incurred the enmity of his prince, on applying 
to the church for protection, he and his family will con- 
tinue to live unmolested; but many persons abuse this 
indemnity, far exceeding the indulgence of the canon, 
which in such cases grants only personal safety; and 
from the places of refuge even make hostile irruptions, 
and more severely harass the country than the prince 
himself. Hermits and anchorites more strictly abstinent 
and more spiritual can nowhere be found ; for this nation 
is earnest in all its pursuits, and neither worse men than 
the bad, nor better than the good, can be met with. 

Happy and fortunate indeed would this nation be, 
nay, completely blessed, if it had good prelates and 
pastors, and but one prince, and that prince a good one. 



Having in the former book clearly set forth the char- 
acter, manners, and customs of the British nation, and 
having collected and explained everything which could 
redound to its credit or glory ; an attention to order now 
requires that, in this second part, we should employ our 
pen in pointing out those particulars in which it seems 
to transgress the line of virtue and commendation; 
having first obtained leave to speak the truth, without 
which history not only loses its authority, but becomes 
undeserving of its very name. For the painter who 
professes to imitate nature, loses his reputation, if, by 
indulging his fancy, he represents only those parts of 
the subject which best suit him. 

Since, therefore, no man is born without faults, and he 
is esteemed the best whose errors are the least, let the 
wise man consider everything human as connected with 
himself; for in worldly affairs there is no perfect happi- 
ness under heaven. Evil borders upon good, and vices 
are confounded with virtues; as the report of good 
qualities is delightful to a well-disposed mind, so the 
relation of the contrary should not be offensive. The 
natural disposition of this nation might have been 
corrupted and perverted by long exile and poverty; 
for as poverty extinguished many faults, so it often 
generates failings that are contrary to virtue. 




These people are no less light in mind than in body, and 
are by no means to be relied upon. They are easily urged 
to undertake any action, and are as easily checked from 
prosecuting it a people quick in action, but more stub- 
born in a bad than in a good cause, and constant only 
in acts of inconstancy. They pay no respect to oaths, 
faith, or truth; and so lightly do they esteem the 
covenant of faith, held so inviolable by other nations, 
that it is usual to sacrifice their faith for nothing, by 
holding forth the right hand, not only in serious and 
important concerns, but even on every trifling occasion, 
and for the confirmation of almost every common asser- 
tion. They never scruple at taking a false oath for the 
sake of any temporary emolument or advantage ; so that 
in civil and ecclesiastical causes, each party, being ready 
to swear whatever seems expedient to its purpose, 
endeavours both to prove and defend, although the 
venerable laws, by which oaths are deemed sacred, and 
truth is honoured and respected, by favouring the 
accused and throwing an odium upon the accuser, im- 
pose the burden of bringing proofs upon the latter. But 
to a people so cunning and crafty, this yoke is pleasant, 
and this burden is light. 


190 Giraldus Cambrensis 



This nation conceives it right to commit acts of plunder, 
theft, and robbery, not only against foreigners and 
hostile nations, but even against their own countrymen. 
When an opportunity of attacking the enemy with ad- 
vantage occurs, they respect not the leagues of peace and 
friendship, preferring base lucre to the solemn obliga- 
tions of oaths and good faith; to which circumstance 
Gildas alludes in his book concerning the overthrow of 
the Britons, actuated by the love of truth, and accord- 
ing to the rules of history, not suppressing the vices of 
his countrymen. " They are neither brave in war, nor 
faithful in peace." But when Julius Csesar, great as the 
world itself, 

" Territa quassitis ostendit terga Britannis," 

were they not brave under their leader Cassivellaunus ? 
And when Belinus and Brennus added the Roman 
empire to their conquests ? What were they in the time 
of Constantine, son of our Helen? What, in the reign 
of Aurelius Ambrosius, whom even Eutropius com- 
mends? What were they in the time of our famous 
prince Arthur? I will not say fabulous. On the con- 
trary, they, who were almost subdued by the Scots and 
Picts, often harassed with success the auxiliary Roman 
legions, and exclaimed, as we learn from Gildas, " The 
barbarians drove us to the sea, the sea drove us again 
back to the barbarians; on one side we were subdued, 
on the other drowned, and here we were put to death. 
Were they not," says he, " at that time brave and praise- 
worthy?" When attacked and conquered by the 
Saxons, who originally had been called in as stipendiaries 

Description of Wales 1 9 1 

to their assistance, were they not brave? But the 
strongest argument made use of by those who accuse this 
nation of cowardice, is, that Gildas, a holy man, and a 
Briton by birth, has handed down to posterity nothing 
remarkable concerning them, in any of his historical 
works. We promise, however, a solution of the con- 
trary in our British Topography, if God grants us a con- 
tinuance of life. 

As a further proof, it may be necessary to add, that 
from the time when that illustrious prince of the Britons, 
mentioned at the beginning of this book, totally ex- 
hausted the strength of the country, by transporting the 
whole armed force beyond the seas; that island, which 
had before been so highly illustrious for its incomparable 
valour, remained for many subsequent years destitute of 
men and arms, and exposed to the predatory attacks of 
pirates and robbers. So distinguished, indeed, were the 
natives of this island for their bravery, that, by their 
prowess, that king subdued almost all Cisalpine Gaul, 
and dared even to make an attack on the Roman empire. 

In process of time, the Britons, recovering their long- 
lost population and knowledge of the use of arms, re- 
acquired their high and ancient character. Let the 
different seras be therefore marked, and the historical 
accounts will accord. With regard to Gildas, who in- 
veighs so bitterly against his own nation, the Britons 
affirm that, highly irritated at the death of his brother, 
the prince of Albania, whom king Arthur had slain, he 
wrote these invectives, and upon the same occasion 
threw into the sea many excellent books, in which he 
had described the actions of Arthur, and the celebrated 
deeds of his countrymen; from which cause it arises, 
that no authentic account of so great a prince is any 
where to be found. 

192 Giraldus Cambrensis 



In war this nation is very severe in the first attack, 
terrible by their clamour and looks, filling the air with 
horrid shouts and the deep-toned clangour of very long 
trumpets; swift and rapid in their advances and fre- 
quent throwing of darts. Bold in the first onset, they 
cannot bear a repulse, being easily thrown into confusion 
as soon as they turn their backs; and they trust to 
flight for safety, without attempting to rally, which the 
poet thought reprehensible in martial conflicts: 

" Ignavum scelus est tantum fuga; " 

and elsewhere 

" In vitium culpa? ducit fuga, si caret arte." 

The character given to the Teutones in the Roman 
History, may be applied to this people. " In their first 
attack they are more than men, in the second, less than 
women." Their courage manifests itself chiefly in the 
retreat, when they frequently return, and, like the 
Parthians, shoot their arrows behind them; and, as 
after success and victory in battle, even cowards boast 
of their courage, so, after a reverse of fortune, even the 
bravest men are not allowed their due claims of merit. 
Their mode of fighting consists in chasing the enemy or 
in retreating. This light-armed people, relying more on 
their activity than on their strength, cannot struggle for 
the field of battle, enter into close engagement, or endure 
long and severe actions, such as the poet describes : 

" Jam clypeo clypeus, umbone repellitur umbo, 
Ense minax ensis, pede pes, et cuspide cuspis." 

Though defeated and put to flight on one day, they are 

Description of Wales 193 

ready to resume the combat on the next, neither dejected 
by their loss, nor by their dishonour; and although, per- 
haps, they do not display great fortitude in open engage- 
ments and regular conflicts, yet they harass the enemy 
by ambuscades and nightly sallies. Hence, neither 
oppressed by hunger or cold, nor fatigued by martial 
labours, nor despondent in adversity, but ready, after a 
defeat, to return immediately to action, and again 
endure the dangers of war; they are as easy to overcome 
in a single battle, as difficult to subdue in a protracted 
war. The poet Claudian thus speaks of a people similar 
in disposition: 

" Dum pereunt, meminere mali: si corda parumper 
Respirare sinas, nullo tot funera censu 
Praitereunt, tantique levis jactura cruoris." 



This nation is, above all others, addicted to the digging 
up of boundary ditches, removing the limits, transgress- 
ing landmarks, and extending their territory by every 
possible means. So gieat is their disposition towards 
this common violence, that they scruple not to claim as 
their hereditary right, those lands which are held under 
lease, or at will, on condition of planting, or by any 
other title, even although indemnity had been publicly 
secured on oath to the tenant by the lord proprietor of 
the soil. Hence arise suits and contentions, murders 
and conflagrations, and frequent fratricides, increased, 
perhaps, by the ancient national custom of brothers 
dividing their property amongst each other. Another 
heavy grievance also prevails; the princes entrust the 
education of their children to the care of the principal 

194 Giraldus Cambrensis 

men of their country, each of whom, after the death of 
his father, endeavours, by every possible means, to 
exalt his own charge above his neighbours. From which 
cause great disturbances have frequently arisen amongst 
brothers, and terminated in the most cruel and unjust 
murders ; and on which account friendships are found to 
be more sincere between foster-brothers, than between 
those who are connected by the natural ties of brother- 
hood. It is also remarkable, that brothers shew more 
affection to one another when dead, than when living; 
for they persecute the living even unto death, but revenge 
the deceased with all their power. 



Where they find plenty, and can exercise their power, 
they levy the most unjust exactions. Immoderate in 
their love of food and intoxicating drink, they say with 
the Apostle, " We are instructed both to abound, and to 
suffer need; " but do not add with him, " becoming all 
things to all men, that I might by all .means save some." 
As in times of scarcity their abstinence and parsimony 
are too severe, so, when seated at another man's table, 
after a long fasting, (like wolves and eagles, who, like 
them, live by plunder, and are rarely satisfied,) their 
appetite is immoderate. They are therefore penurious 
in times of scarcity, and extravagant in times of plenty ; 
but no man, as in England, mortgages his property for 
the gluttonous gratification of his own appetite. They 
wish, however, that all people would join with them in 
their bad habits and expenses; as the commission of 
crimes reduces to a level all those who are concerned in 
the perpetration of them. 

Description of Wales 195 



The crime of incest hath so much prevailed, not only 
among the higher, but among the lower orders of this 
people, that, not having the fear of God before their 
eyes, they are not ashamed of intermarrying with their 
relations, even in the third degree of consanguinity. 
They generally abuse these dispensations with a view 
of appeasing those enmities which so often subsist be- 
tween them, because " their feet are swift to shed blood; " 
and from their love of high descent, which they so 
ardently affect and covet, they unite themselves to their 
own people, refusing to intermarry with strangers, and 
arrogantly presuming on their own superiority of blood 
and family. They do not engage in marriage, until they 
have tried, by previous cohabitation, the disposition, 
and particularly the fecundity, of the person with whom 
they are engaged. An ancient custom also prevails of 
hiring girls from their parents at a certain price, and a 
stipulated penalty, in case of relinquishing their con- 

Their churches have almost as many parsons and 
sharers as there are principal men in the parish. The 
sons, after the decease of their fathers, succeed to the 
ecclesiastical benefices, not by election, but by here- 
ditary right possessing and polluting the sanctuary of 
God. And if a prelate should by chance presume to 
appoint or institute any other person, the people would 
certainly revenge the injury upon the institutor and 
the instituted. With respect to these two excesses 
of incest and succession, which took root formerly in 
Armorica, and are not yet eradicated, Ildebert, bishop 
of Le Mans, in one of his epistles, says, " that he '''was 

N2 J 


Giraldus Cambrensis 

present with a British priest at a council summoned with 
a view of putting an end to the enormities of this nation:" 
hence it appears that these vices have for a long time 
prevailed both in Britany and Britain. The words of 
the Psalmist may not inaptly be applied to them ; " They 
are corrupt and become abominable in their doings, 
there is none that doeth good, no, not one: they are all 
gone out of the way, they are altogether become abomin- 
able," etc. 



Moreover, through their sins, and particularly that 
detestable and wicked vice of Sodom, as well as by divine 
vengeance, they lost Britain, as they formerly lost Troy. 
For we read in the Roman history, that the emperor 
Constantine having resigned the city and the Western 
empire to the blessed Sylvester and his successors, with 
an intention of rebuilding Troy, and there establishing 
the chief seat of the Eastern Empire, heard a voice, 
saying, " Dost thou go to rebuild Sodom? " upon which, 
he altered his intention, turned his ships and standards 
towards Byzantium, and there fixing his seat of empire, 
gave his own propitious name to the city. The British 
history informs us, that Mailgon, king of the Britons, and 
many others, were addicted to this vice ; that enormity, 
however, had entirely ceased for so long a time, that the 
recollection of it was nearly worn out. But since that, as 
if the time of repentance was almost expired, and be- 
cause the nation, by its warlike successes and acquisition 
of territory, has in our times unusually increased in 
population and strength, they boast in their turn, and 
most confidently and unanimously affirm, that in a 

Description of Wales 197 

short time their countrymen shall return to the island, 
and, according to the prophecies of Merlin, the nation, 
and even the name, of foreigners, shall be extinguished 
in the island, and the Britons shall exult again in their 
ancient name and privileges. But to me it appears far 
otherwise; for since 

" Luxuriant animi rebus plerumque secundis. 
Nee facile est aequa commoda mente pati ; " 

And because 

" Non habet unde suum paupertas pascat amorem, . . . 
Divitiis alitur luxuriosus amor." 

So that their abstinence from that vice, which in their 
prosperity they could not resist, may be attributed 
more justly to their poverty and state of exile than to 
their sense of virtue. For they cannot be said to have 
repented, when we see them involved in such an abyss 
of vices, perjury, theft, robbery, rapine, murders, fratri- 
cides, adultery, and incest, and become every day more 
entangled and ensnared in evil-doing; so that the words 
of the prophet Hosea may be truly applied to them, 
" There is no truth, nor mercy," etc. 

Other matters of which they boast are more properly 
to be attributed to the diligence and activity of the 
Norman kings than to their own merits or power. For 
previous to the coming of the Normans, when the Eng- 
lish kings contented themselves with the sovereignty of 
Britain alone, and employed their whole military force 
in the subjugation of this people, they almost wholly 
extirpated them; as did king Offa, who by a long and 
extensive dyke separated the British from the English; 
Ethelfrid also, who demolished the noble city of Legions, 1 
and put to death the monks of the celebrated monastery 
at Banchor, who had been called in to promote the suc- 
cess of the Britons by their prayers ; and lastly Harold, 
who himself on foot, with an army of light-armed in- 
fantry, and conforming to the customary diet of the 

1 By the city of Legions Chester is here meant, not Caerleon. 

i 9 8 

Giraldus Cambrensis 

country, so bravely penetrated through every part of 
Wales, that he scarcely left a man alive in it; and as a 
memorial of his signal victories, many stones may be 
found in Wales bearing this inscription:" hic victor 


To these bloody and recent victories of the English 
may be attributed the peaceable state of Wales during 
the reigns of the three first Norman kings; when the 
nation increased in population, and being taught the use 
of arms and the management of horses by the English 
and Normans (with whom they had much intercourse, 
by following the court, or by being sent as hostages), 
took advantage of the necessary attention which the 
three succeeding kings were obliged to pay to their 
foreign possessions, and once more lifting up their crests, 
recovered their lands, and spurned the yoke that had 
formerly been imposed upon them. 



The prince who would wish to subdue this nation, and 
govern it peaceably, must use this method. He must be 
determined to apply a diligent and constant attention 
to this purpose for one year at least; for a people who 
with a collected force will not openly attack the enemy 
in the field, nor wait to be besieged in castles, is not to be 
overcome at the first onset, but to be worn out by pru- 
dent delay and patience. Let him divide their strength, 
and by bribes and promises endeavour to stir up one 
against the other, knowing the spirit of hatred and envy 

1 Of the stones inscribed "hic victor fuit haroldus" 
" here harold conquered," no original, I believe, remains 
extant: but at the village of Trelech. in Monmouthshire, there 
is a modern pedestal bearing the above inscription. See the 
description and engraving in Coxe's Monmouthshire, p. 234. 

Description of Wales 199 

which generally prevails amongst them; and in the 
autumn let not only the marches, but also the interior 
part of the country be strongly fortified with castles, 
provisions, and confidential families. In the meantime 
the purchase of corn, cloth, and salt, with which they are 
usually supplied from England, should be strictly inter- 
dicted; and well-manned ships placed as a guard on 
the coast, to prevent their importation of these articles 
from Ireland or the Severn sea, and to facilitate the 
supply of his own army. Afterwards, when the severity 
of winter approaches, when the trees are void of leaves, 
and the mountains no longer afford pasturage when 
they are deprived of any hopes of plunder, and harassed 
on every side by the repeated attacks of the enemy 
let a body of light-armed infantry penetrate into their 
woody and mountainous retreats, and let these troops 
be supported and relieved by others; and thus by fre- 
quent changes, and replacing the men who are either 
fatigued or slain in battle, this nation may be ultimately 
subdued; nor can it be overcome without the above 
precautions, nor without great danger and loss of men. 
Though many of the English hired troops may perish in 
a day of battle, money will procure as many or more on 
the morrow for the same service; but to the Welsh, who 
have neither foreign nor stipendiary troops, the loss is for 
the time irreparable. In these matters, therefore, as an 
artificer is to be trusted in his trade, so attention is to be 
paid to the counsel of those who, having been long con-, 
versant in similar concerns, are become acquainted with 
the manners and customs of their country, and whom it 
greatly interests, that an enemy, for whom during long 
and frequent conflicts they have contracted an implacable 
hatred, should by their assistance be either weakened or 
destroyed. Happy should I have termed the borders 
of Wales inhabited by the English, if their kings, in the 
government of these parts, and in their military opera- 
tions against the enemy, had rather employed the 
marchers and barons of the country, than adopted the 

200 Giraldus Cambrensis 

counsels and policy of the people of Anjou and the 
Normans. In this, as well as in every other military 
expedition, either in Ireland or in Wales, the natives 
of the marches, from the constant state of warfare in 
which they are engaged, and whose manners are formed 
from the habits of war, are bold and active, skilful on 
horseback, quick on foot, not nice as to their diet, and 
ever prepared when necessity requires to abstain both 
from corn and wine. By such men were the first hostile 
attacks made upon Wales as well as Ireland, and by such 
men alone can their final conquest be accomplished. 
For the Flemings, Normans, Coterells, and Bragmans, 
are good and well-disciplined soldiers in their own 
country; but the Gallic soldiery is known to differ much 
from the Welsh and Irish. In their country the battle 
is on level, here on rough ground; there in an open field, 
here in forests; there they consider their armour as an 
honour, here as a burden; there soldiers are taken 
prisoners, here they are beheaded; there they are ran- 
somed, here they are put to death. Where, therefore, 
the armies engage in a flat country, a heavy and complex 
armour, made of cloth and iron, both protects and deco- 
rates the soldier ; but when the engagement is in narrow 
defiles, in woods or marshes, where the infantry have the 
advantage over the cavalry, a light armour is preferable. 
For light arms afford sufficient protection against un- 
armed men, by whom victory is either lost or won at the 
first onset; where it is necessary that an active and 
retreating enemy should be overcome by a certain pro- 
portional quantity of moderate armour; whereas with 
a more complex sort, and with high and curved saddles, 
it is difficult to dismount, more so to mount, and with 
the greatest difficulty can such troops march, if required, 
with the infantry. In order, therefore, that 

" Singula quaeque locum teneant r.ortita decenter," 

we maintain it is necessary to employ heavy-armed and 
strong troops against men heavily armed, depending 

Description of Wales 201 

entirely upon their natural strength, and accustomed 
to fight in an open plain; but against light-armed and 
active troops, who prefer rough ground, men accus- 
tomed to such conflicts, and armed in a similar manner, 
must be employed. But let the cities and fortresses on 
the Severn, and the whole territory on its western banks 
towards Wales, occupied by the English, as well as the 
provinces of Shropshire and Cheshire, which are pro- 
tected by powerful armies, or by any other special 
privileges and honourable independence, rejoice in the 
provident bounty of their prince. There should be a 
yearly examination of the warlike stores, of the arms, 
and horses, by good and discreet men deputed for that 
purpose, and who, not intent upon its plunder and ruin, 
interest themselves in the defence and protection of 
their country. By these salutary measures, the soldiers, 
citizens, and the whole mass of the people, being in- 
structed and accustomed to the use of arms, liberty may 
be opposed by liberty, and pride be checked by pride. 
For the Welsh, who are neither worn out by laborious 
burdens, nor molested by the exactions of their lords, 
are ever prompt to avenge an injury. Hence arise their 
distinguished bravery in the defence of their country; 
hence their readiness to take up arms and to rebel. 
Nothing so much excites, encourages, and invites the 
hearts of men to probity as the cheerfulness of liberty; 
nothing so much dejects and dispirits them as the op- 
pression of servitude. This portion of the kingdom, 
protected by arms and courage, might be of great use 
to the prince, not only in these or the adjacent parts, 
but, if necessity required, in more remote regions; and 
although the public treasury might receive a smaller 
annual revenue from these provinces, yet the deficiency 
would be abundantly compensated by the peace of the 
kingdom and the honour of its sovereign; especially as 
the heavy and dangerous expenses of one military ex- 
pedition into Wales usually amount to the whole income 
arising from the revenues of the province. 

202 Giraldus Cambrensis 



As therefore this nation is to be subdued by resolution in 
the manner proposed, so when subdued, its government 
must be directed by moderation, according to the follow- 
ing plan. Let the care of it be committed to a man of 
a firm and determined mind; who during the time of 
peace, by paying due obedience to the laws, and respect 
to the government, may render it firm and stable. For, 
like other nations in a barbarous state, this people, al- 
though they are strangers to the principles of honour, 
yet above all things desire to be honoured ; and approve 
and respect in others that truth which they themselves 
do not profess. Whenever the natural inconstancy of 
their indisposition shall induce them to revolt, let 
punishment instantly follow the offence ; but when they 
shall have submitted themselves again to order, and 
made proper amends for their faults (as it is the custom 
of bad men to remember wrath after quarrels), let their 
former transgression be overlooked, and let them enjoy 
security and respect, as long as they continue faithful. 
Thus, by mild treatment, they will be invited to obedi- 
ence and the love of peace, and the thought of certain 
punishment will deter them from rash attempts. We 
have often observed persons who, confounding these 
matters, by complaining of faults, depressing for ser- 
vices, flattering in war, plundering in peace, despoiling 
the weak, paying respect to revolters, by thus rendering 
all things confused, have at length been confounded 
themselves. Besides, as circumstances which are fore- 
seen do less mischief, and as that state is happy which 
thinks of war in the time of peace, let the wise man be 
upon his guard, and prepared against the approaching 

Description of Wales 203 

inconveniences of war, by the construction of forts, the 
widening of passes through woods, and the providing of 
a trusty household. For those who are cherished and 
sustained during the time of peace, are more ready to 
come forward in times of danger, and are more confi- 
dently to be depended upon; and as a nation unsubdued 
ever meditates plots under the disguise of friendship, 
let not the prince or his governor entrust the protection 
of his camp or capital to their fidelity. By the examples 
of many remarkable men, some of whom have been 
cruelly put to death, and others deprived of their castles 
and dignities, through their own neglect and want of 
care, we may see, that the artifices of a crafty and sub- 
dued nation are much more to be dreaded than their 
open warfare; their good-will than their anger, their 
honey than their gall, their malice than their attack, 
their treachery than their aggression, and their pre- 
tended friendship more than their open enmity. A 
prudent and provident man therefore should contem- 
plate in the misfortune of others what he ought himself 
to avoid; correction taught by example is harmless, as 
Ennodius x says: "The ruin of predecessors instructs 
those who succeed ; and a former miscarriage becomes a 
future caution." If a well-disposed prince should wish 
these great designs to be accomplished without the effu- 
sion of blood, the marches, as we before mentioned, must 
be put into a state of defence on all sides, and all inter- 
course by sea and land interdicted; some of the Welsh 
may be stirred up to deadly feuds, by means of stipends, 
and by transferring the property of one person to 
another; and thus worn out with hunger, and a want of 
the necessaries of life, and harassed by frequent murders 
and implacable enmities, they will at last be compelled 
to surrender. 

There are three things which ruin this nation, and 
prevent its enjoying the satisfaction of a fruitful pro- 

1 In one MS. of Giraldus in the British Museum, this name is 
written Ovidius. 

204 Giraldus Cambrensis 

geny. First, because both the natural and legitimate 
sons endeavour to divide the paternal inheritance 
amongst themselves; from which cause, as we have 
before observed, continual fratricides take place. 
Secondly, because the education of their sons is com- 
mitted to the care of the high-born people of the country, 
who, on the death of their fathers, endeavour by all 
possible means to exalt their pupil; from whence arise 
murders, conflagrations, and almost a total destruction 
of the country. And, thirdly, because from the pride 
and obstinacy of their disposition, they will not (like 
other nations) subject themselves to the dominion of 
one lord and king. 




Having hitherto so partially and elaborately spoken in 
favour of the English, and being equally connected by 
birth with each nation, justice demands that we should 
argue on both sides ; let us therefore, at the close of our 
work, turn our attention towards the Welsh, and briefly, 
but effectually, instruct them in the art of resistance. 
If the Welsh were more commonly accustomed to the 
Gallic mode of arming, and depended more on steady 
fighting than on their agility; if their princes were un- 
animous and inseparable in their defence; or rather, if 
they had only one prince, and that a good one; this 
nation, situated in so powerful, strong, and inaccessible 
a country, could hardly ever be completely overcome. 
If, therefore, they would be inseparable, they would 
become insuperable, being assisted by these three cir- 
cumstances; a country well defended by nature, a 
people both contented and accustomed to live upon 

Description of Wales 205 

little, a community whose nobles as well as privates are 
instructed in the use of arms; and especially as the 
English fight for power, the Welsh for liberty; the one 
to procure gain, the other to avoid loss; the English 
hirelings for money, the Welsh patriots for their country. 
The English, I say, fight in order to expel the natural 
inhabitants from the island, and secure to themselves 
the possession of the whole ; but the Welsh maintain the 
conflict, that they, who have so long enjoyed the sove- 
reignty of the whole kingdom, may at least find a hiding 
place in the worst corner of it, amongst woods and 
marshes; and, banished, as it were, for their offences, 
may there in a state of poverty, for a limited time, per- 
form penance for the excesses they committed in the 
days of their prosperity. For the perpetual remem- 
brance of their former greatness, the recollection of their 
Trojan descent, and the high and continued majesty of 
the kingdom of Britain, may draw forth many a latent 
spark of animosity, and encourage the daring spirit of 
rebellion. Hence during the military expedition which 
king Henry II. made in our days against South Wales, 
an old Welshman at Pencadair, who had faithfully ad- 
hered to him, being desired to give his opinion about the 
royal armv, and whether he thought that of the rebels 
would make resistance, and what would be the final 
event of this war, replied, " This nation, king, may 
now, as in former times, be harassed, and in a great 
measure weakened and destroyed by your and other 
powers, and it will often prevail by its laudable exertions ; 
but it can never be totally subdued through the wrath 
of man, unless the wrath of God shall concur. Nor do 
I think, that any other nation than this of Wales, or any 
other language, whatever may hereafter come to pass, 
shall, in the day of severe examination before the 
Supreme Judge, answer for this corner of the earth." 


Abergevenxi (Abergavenny), 

Aberteivi (Cardigan), 109. 

Alba Domus, 75. 

Alliteration, its use by the 
Welsh, 173. 

Almedha, St., anniversary of, 29. 

Arthur, king, Roman ambas- 
sadors received by him at 
Caerlon, 51. 

Awenydhion, inspired people, 

B. M., explanation of, 158. 

Bala, lake of, 131. 

Baldwin, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, 11; his character and 
death, 139. 

Baldwin, Abbot of Ford, his 
visit to Wales, 97. 

Bangor, the metropolitan see 
of N. Wales, 117. 

Bangor (or Banchor), the col- 
lege of priests, 197. 

Bangu, a bell, possibly St. 

Basinwerk, cell of, 129. 
David's, 16. 

Beaver, as it existed in Wales, 
106; its habits, 107. 

Benedictine Order, its corrup- 
tion, 39, 42. 

Berdsey Island, 116. 

Bernard, Bishop of St. David's, 

Black Mountains, the, 34. 

Brachanus (Brychan), an early 
British prince, 28 ; his twenty- 
four daughters, 28. 

Braose, William de, story of, 
19; his affected devotion, 
20; his cruelty, 46; nar- 
rowly escapes death, 48. 

Brecheinoc, legend of the lake 
of, 30. 

Britons, the three remaining 

tribes of, 156. 
Bromfield, college of secular 

canons at, 138. 
Brutus, fable of, 156. 
Builth (Buelth), history of lord 

of, 14. 

Cadair Arthur, a mountain, 


Cador, his devout ingenuity, 67. 

Cadwallon, murders his brother, 
63; his own death, 63. 

Caerleon, history of, 50. 

Caermarthen (Caermadyn), re- 
puted birthplace of Merlin, 

Caernarvon, ancient names of, 

Cambria, origin of the name, 

Canauc's, St., collar, 24. 
Caradoc, St., story of, 79. 
Cardiff, king Henry at, 58; 

exploit of Ivor the Little at, 

Chester, 131; legend of king 

Harold at, 131. 
Chester, Hugh, earl of, ravages 

Mona, 120. 
Cistercian Order, its corrup- 
tion, 39, 42; reformation, 43. 
Clare, Richard de, murder of, 

Clare, Richard de, his son, 45. 
Clifford, Walter de, father of 

fair Rosamund, 28. 
Cluniac Order, its corruption, 

Coed Grono, murder of Richard 

de Clare at, 45. 
Coleshill, Henry II. defeated at, 

Conan, family of, 113. 




Constantius, body of, found at 
Caernarvon, 116. 

Conwy, the river, popular error 
concerning, 125. 

Coracles described, 184. 

Corinaeus, fable of, 156. 

Cyneuric, son of Rhys, descrip- 
tion of, no. 

Cyric, St., staff of, 15. 

Damianus, 185. 

Daugleddeu, meaning of, 76. 

David's, St., visit of Baldwin 
to, 92; history of the see, 95; 
its archbishops and bishops, 
95 ; the cathedral, 99. 

Dean, forest of, 50. 

De Doloribus, monastery of, 

Dee, superstition connected 
with, 131. 

Demetia, or South Wales, 85, 

Deudraeth, castle of, 115. 

Devi, the river, boundary be- 
tween N. and S. Wales, 113. 

Dinas Emrys, 125. 

Dinevor, castle of, 73! strata- 
gem of a priest at, 74. 

Dingatstow (Landinegat), 48. 

Dog, instances of the fidelity of 
the, 63. 

Dogmael, St., monastery of, 

Eagle, tradition of one, 128. 
Ebbing spring, near Ruthlan, 

Eleutherius, pope, sends priests 

to Britain, 185. 
Elidorus and the fairies, 68. 
Enoch, abbot of Strata Mar- 

cella, 54. 
Eryri (Snowdon) mountains, 

127; and floating island, 127. 
Ethelfrid slays the monks of 

Bangor, 197. 
Ewyas, vale of, 34. 

Faganus, 185. 

Fairies, the, and Elidorus, 68. 
Fish, one-eyed, found in lake on 
Snowdon, 128. 

Fishes, combat of, 17. 

Fitz-Hamon, Robert, 57. 

Fitz-Other, Giraldus de, 83; 
marries Nest, 83. 

Fitz-Walter, Mahel, his perse- 
cution, 28; his penitence 
and death, 28. 

Fitz-Walter, Milo, challenges 
Gruff ydd ap Rhys, 31. 

Flemings, the, in Wales, 77, 79; 
their superstitions, 80. 

Fostering, custom of, 194. 

Fulke, a priest, his speech to 
Richard I., 41. 

Genealogies among the Welsh, 

Genealogy of Princes of Wales, 

Geoffrey of Monmouth, his 
fabulous story, 165. 

Germanus of Auxerre, 185. 

Gildas, his work praised, 147. 

Giraldus Cambrensis (the author) 
takes Gildas as his model, 
148; accompanies Baldwin 
into Wales, 12. 

Glanville, Ranulph de, accom- 
panies Baldwin, 12. 

Gloucester, Robert, earl of, 
notice of, 57. 

Gloucester, William, earl of, 
his wife and child carried off 
by Ivor the Little, 58. 

Gower, the district of, 67. 

Gruffydd ap Rhys, his history, 
30; legend concerning him, 


Guaidanus, a priest, stratagem 
of, 74- 

Harold, king, legend of, 131. 

Harp, esteemed among the 
Welsh, 169. 

Haverford, miracle at, 76; 
story of a robber at, 77. 

Hay, castle of, 18; Crusade 
preached at, 18. 

Henry II., his expeditions 
against Wales, 130; his ac- 
count of Welsh courage, 167. 

Hospitality among the Welsh, 



Iestyn ap Gwrgant invites 

Normans to Wales, 19. 
Incestuous marriages among 

the Welsh, 13, 126, 195. 
Intermarriages of near relatives 

among the Welsh, 126. 
Iorwerth Drwyndvvn, effigy of, 

Ivor the Little, his exploit, 58. 

Jealousy little known among 

the Welsh, 169. 
Jew, witticism of a, 137. 
Julius and Aaron, story of, 51. 

Laci, Walter de, his descen- 
dants, 38. 

Language, of the Fairies, 70; 
of Wales, 174. 

Langton, Stephen, dedication 
ito, 3. 

Leominster, monastery of, 138. 

Lightning, superstition regard- 
ing, 87. 

Llanbadarn Fawr, the abbot of, 

Llanddaff, the see of, 61. 

Llanddewi Brefi, miracle at, no. 

Llanstephan, castle of, 73. 

Llanthoni, abbey of, its founda- 
tion, 38; its isolation and 
voluntary poverty, 36, 38. 

Llanvaes, miracle at, 21. 

Loch or, the river, 71. 

Londres, Maurice de, 72. 

Lucius, king, his request to 
pope Eleutherius, 185. 

Ludlow, castle of, 138. 

Lupus of Troyes, 185. 

Mailgon, king of the Britons, 

Mangunel, William, story of his 

wife, 80. 
Manorbeer, castle of, 84, 85. 
Margam, monastery of, miracles 

in, favour of, 62. 
Melerius the soothsayer, 52. 
Meredyth, son of Conan, his 

liberality, 114. 
Merioneth, the country and 

people, 114. 
Merlin, prophecy of, cited, 180. 

Mona, isle of, visit of Baldwin 
to, 118; its desolate appear- 
ance, 118. 

Monastic orders, state of the, 

Music, the Welsh skilled in, 172; 
the various instruments, 172. 

Neath, monastery of, 66; the 
river, its quicksands, 66. 

Newgill Sands, remarkable oc- 
currence at, 91. 

Newmarch, Bernard de, his 
conquests in Wales, 26. 

Newmarch, Mahel de, story of. 

Nightingale, the, not to be 
found in Wales, 117. 

Offa's dyke, 197. 
Oswaldestree, 133; omen at, 


Owen Cyfeilioc, excommuni- 
cated, 135; his joke at 
Henry II. '5 avarice, 135. 

Owen Gwynedd, 125, 136. 

Pall, the archiepiscopal, 96. 

Paternus, St., account of, in. 

Pembroke Castle, siege of, 83; 
frustrated by a stratagem, 83. 

Pencarn, ford of, prophecy 
concerning, 56. 

Pilgrimage to Rome, professed 
by Welsh, 186. 

Pistyll Dewi, a spring of mira- 
culous origin, 101. 

Poer, Ranulf, death of, 48. 

Pont Stephen, castle of, 109. 

Powys, fine breed of horses in, 


Preseleu mountains, 102. 

Priestholme Island, 123. 

Prophecy of Merlin, 180; re- 
marks on, 179. 

Quendreda, story of, 23. 

Rats, a man devoured by, 102. 
Rhys ap Gruffydd, prince of S. 

Wales, takes the cross. 12; 

diverted by his wife ; 13; 

imprisoned by his sons. 104. 



Richard I., his reply to Fulco, 
a priest, 41. 

Roderic the Great, 156. 

Rcderic, son of Owen, 118. 

Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, 37. 

Rotherch Falcus, a chaplain, 
his conduct, 66. 

Royal Welsh Palaces, enu- 
merated, 74. 

Ruthlan, castle of, 128. 

Salmon-leap, the, 105. 
Sanctuarv, its uses and abuses, 

Segontium, 116. 
Severn, the river, its course, 

Shrewsbury, Hugh, earl of, 

ravages Mona, 121; his 

death, 122. 
Shrewsbury, Robert, earl of, in- 
troduces Spanish horses, 134. 
Simon, an evil spirit so called, 

Snowdon, the mountain and its 

lakes, 127. 
Soothsayers among the Welsh, 

Stakepole, Elidore de, and his 

demon steward, 88. 
Steward, demon who acted as a, 

Stone, a miraculous one, in 

Mona, 120. 
Stratflur, castle of, 109. 
Sunday labour, attempt to 

restrain, 59. 
Swansea, castle of, 67. 

Teeth, care of the, 171. 
Tegeingl, play on the word, 

Teivi, the river, abundant in 

salmon, 105. 
Thief, miraculous detection of 

a, 21. 
Toads, a man devoured by, 102 ; 

sculpture to commemorate 

the tale, 102. 

Unclean spirits, stories of, 86. 
Usk, the river, its course, 160. 
Usk, the town, visit of Baldwin 
to, 50. 

Vallis Crucis abbey, 54. 
Venedotia, or North Wales, 156. 
Vere. Alberic de, 123. 
Vision of king Henry II. at 
Cardiff, 58. 

Wales, its length and breadth, 
155; its soil, 155; ancient 
divisions, 156; genealogy of 
the princes, 157; cantreds, 
etc., 158; mountains, 159; 
rivers, 159; pleasantness and 
fertility, 163; origin of the 
name, 164; language, 174; 
how to conquer, 198; how to 
govern, 202. 

Weasels, stories of, 84. 

Welsh, their manners and cour- 
age, 166; sobriety and 
frugality, 168; domestic life, 
170; quickness and sharp- 
ness of understanding, 171; 
their musical instruments, 
172; language, 174; sym- 
phonies and songs, 174; wit 
and pleasantry, 175; bold- 
ness and confidence in speak- 
ing, 177; soothsayers, 179; 
love of high birth and ancient 
genealogies, 183; faith and 
devotion, 185; instability 
and want of reverence for 
oaths, 189; live by plunder 
and disregard bonds of peace, 
190; conduct in battle, 192; 
ambition and dissensions, 
193; exactions, and want of 
moderation, 194; incestuous 
marriages, 13, 126, 195; 
plunder of churches, 195; 
their other sins, 196; their 
boasts, 196; how to conquer, 
and govern, 198, 202; how 
they may resist and revolt, 

Wenlock, foundation of monas- 
tery of, 137. 

White Monastery, the, now 
Whitchurch, 133. 

William Rums, his threat 
against Ireland, 101. 

Women, severe reflections on, 27. 

Wye, the river, its course, 160. 





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The itinerary through